New iPad Air is just a rebadged iPad Pro 10.5… and that’s no bad thing

Apple's getting rather good at recycling and re-issuing its top products, isn't it? The new iPad Air has launched, with the tagline 'Power isn't just for the pros'.

Another line could be 'Power ripped from the Pros'… as the new iPad Air is almost identical to the iPad Pro 10.5, the device launched in 2017, but updated with a couple of internal tweaks and an all-new name – while removing nearly all reference to the iPad Pro 10.5 from its site.

Crucially, it's been given a huge price drop as well – meaning Apple has essentially just slashed the price of one of its Pro models and found a way to make it a 'headline' iPad sale for the next couple of years at least.

It's an interesting move, and shows the shift in how Apple is approaching the creation of new products.

Let's take a quick look at what's actually the same here though. The chassis, screen and Smart Connector are all identical. The Touch ID sensor is there, the Pencil support is for the older model (not the wirelessly charging one), the Lightning connector remains and the stereo speakers are the same.

There are a few differences though: the camera on the older iPad Pro 10.5 is 12MP with an f/1.8 aperture, where the new Air is just 8MP with f/2.4, as the 'non-pro' users wouldn't need it as much presumably.

The weight is a touch lighter on the iPad Air (we're talking a few grams), the screen possibly doesn't support 120Hz refresh on the newer model, and battery capacity is slightly lower.

That latter spec won't be noticeable though, as Apple has packed in the far more powerful and efficient A12 chipset, over the A10X Fusion seen in the iPad Pro 10.5, so the 10-hour battery life is apparently preserved.

That's key: the new iPad is around 33% cheaper but is far more powerful. In just using the same manufacturing techniques it's developed already, the cost of production is reduced and means less wastage too, as it can maintain many of the same parts.

In an era where the 'big new thing' is often massively different for the sake of it, having something that just rebadges the older tech and boosts it where needed is a neat move – both from a cost perspective and environmentally.

By shifting the 'Pro' moniker from the iPad Air, it also makes it feel more accessible – the distance between the base-level iPad and the next most-powerful model has closed significantly and could incite more people to spend a little more, especially as there's now the option of the Smart Keyboard too.

The quiet shift

However, it's worth remembering the overall cost of this iPad is still a fair bit higher than the $499 / £479 / AU$779 base price if you want to kit it out with all the accessories.

The Smart Keyboard is an extra $159 / £159 / AU$235, and the Pencil an extra $99 / £89 / AU$145. It's, of course, entirely up to you if you want to go for these options, and if you're just after a spot of extra power then it's your choice on whether you want to spend a little more cash.

It feels a little bit tired to draw on this trope though: like most things Apple, you can spin the line of 'it's too expensive!' when you write about the headline price. The whole point of Apple's multi-choice line up is that you pick the flavor you want / need. The new iPad Air lacks the 512GB option, but that was always an expensive, but useful, option for those wanting to use the Pro 10.5 in a professional capacity.

With the question of whether you go for the basic iPad from last year or the new iPad Air, you're also getting a lot more screen and (possibly, as we've not had this confirmed) the powerful four speakers that bring an extra dimension to multimedia playback.

The larger, more powerful iPad Pro range still exists for those that want to be all professional in their tablet-ing. (Image credit: TechRadar)

The iPad Air is Apple's statement that the needs of the 'pro' have moved on, and the spec list it was offering with the Pro 10.5 simply wasn't enough – although still would be desirable for some consumers, so it shaved off a few small specs that the more casual user wouldn't use (because if the iPad is your main weekend camera, you've got a problem) and brought the price down.

It's also kept the Lightning connector, as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack… the loss of both of these on the new iPad Pro 11 and iPad Pro 12.9 is one of the most irritating parts of the tablet, and would be sorely missed by the non-pro users.

So with the iPad Air, you're now getting almost everything the impressive iPad Pro 10.5 offered for a lot less – and if you need the raw power as well as a top-end screen then the higher-end iPad Pro range still exists for you to sample.

However, there were very few rumors that pegged these new iPads to launch today, so spare a thought for anyone that spent hundreds more on a Pro 10.5 in the last month… they're going to be using that superior camera as hard as they can.

from TechRadar – All the latest technology news http://www.techradar.com/news/new-ipad-air-is-just-a-rebadged-ipad-pro-105-and-thats-no-bad-thing

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Best text to speech software of 2019

Having emerged in the 1970s, text to speech systems could easily be described as a veteran technology. Used in a wide variety of software and hardware products, they’re essentially computer programs that can artificially produce human speech.

But there’s no denying the fact that this technology has evolved rapidly over the past few decades. Text to speech applications are particularly useful to people who struggle to read text, like those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

However, it’s also changing the lives of blind people, who are able to browse the web and read text via these apps. Such technology has advantages for people who are learning second languages, too.

This software is also popular in business environments, with people utilizing it to boost productivity. For instance, if you’re working on multiple tasks at once or are trying to remember important information, you can get these apps to read documents aloud. Here are some of the best premium speech synthesis apps.

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Image Credit: Amazon

Alexa isn’t the only artificial intelligence tool created by tech giant Amazon; it also offers an intelligent text to speech system called Polly. Employing advanced deep learning techniques, the software turns text into lifelike speech. Developers can use the software to create speech-enabled products and apps. 

It sports an API that lets you easily integrate speech synthesis capabilities into ebooks, articles and other media. What’s great is that Polly is so easy to use. To get text converted into speech, you just have to send it through the API, and it’ll send an audio stream straight back to your application. 

You can also store audio streams as MP3, Vorbis and PCM file formats, and there’s support for a range of international languages and dialects. These include British English, American English, Australian English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish and Russian. 

Polly is available as an API on its own, as well as a feature of the AWS Management Console and command line interface. In terms of pricing, you’re charged based on the amount of text characters you convert into speech. The Free Tier allows for up to 5 millions characters per month for twelve months, but if you need more than that it costs $4 per million characters for speech. 

Image Credit: Linguatec

Based in Germany, Linguatec is another company that’s been creating text to speech applications for a number of years. Now in its 15th edition, Voice Reader can quickly convert text into audio files. 

With the standard edition costing €49 (£42/$57) per voice, it’s a little on the expensive side – but you’re able to convert text such as Word documents, emails, EPUBs and PDFs into audio streams quickly. You can then listen to them on a PC or mobile device. What’s more, you can choose from 67 different voices, and there’s support for up to 45 languages such as French, Spanish, Italian, Danish and Turkish.  

The aim of this software is to improve productivity. For instance, you can get the application to read out manuscripts for speeches, lectures or presentations to look out for incorrect word ordering or missed-out words. Overall, the user interface is sleek and easy to use. You can quickly adjust the speed, pitch or volume of audio files, and each export option is clearly listed.  

When it comes to technical requirements, the software works with Window Vista, Windows 7, 8 and 10. Each voice will take up to 1GB of disk space, and it works best if your device has at least 2GB of RAM.  
 

Image Credit: Capti

Speech synthesis applications are also popular in the education world, where they’re used to improve comprehension among other things. Capti Voice is one such effort, letting you listen to anything you want to read. With it, you can personalize learning and teaching, as well as overcome language barriers.   

Positioned as an offline and online reading support solution, Capti Voice is used by a range of schools, colleges, businesses and professionals across the world. Supporting more than 20 languages, the app can be used to improve vocabulary and as part of active reading strategies. It can narrate a range of content, including ebooks, articles and web pages. 

You can also use the software with cloud storage platforms such as Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox, and it’s universally accessible across a plethora of devices, content formats and age groups.

There's a free version for personal use, which allows for a lot of features but not the higher-end ones, such as higher-quality voice samples. You got those with the Pro version, which is billed at either $1.49 per month or $17.99 annually. The Educator level is advertised as from $0.50 per student per year, but for larger schools this means the software could become quite expensive to license.

Image Credit: NaturalReader

If you’re looking for a cloud-based speech synthesis application, you should definitely check out Natural Reader Online. Aimed more at personal use, the solution allows you to convert written text such as Word and PDF documents, ebooks and web pages into human-like speech.  

Because the software is underpinned by cloud technology, you’re able to access it from wherever you go via a smartphone, tablet or computer. And just like Capti Voice, you can upload documents from cloud storage lockers such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.  

Currently, you can access 56 natural-sounding voices in 9 different languages, including American English, British English, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese and Dutch. The software supports PDF, TXT, DOC(X), ODT, PNG, JPG, plus non-DRM EPUB files and much more, along with MP3 audio streams. 

There are three plans available, with the most basic Web Free allowing for unlimited use of basic voices, and up to 20 minutes use of Premium Voices. Web Premium unlocks these and up to one million characters of speech per month, priced at $9.99. Premium plus allows all features for $15.99 per month.

Image Credit: Voice Dream

There are also plenty of great text to speech applications available for mobile devices, and Voice Dream Reader is an excellent example. It can convert documents, web articles and ebooks into natural-sounding speech. 

The app comes with 186 built-in voices across 30 languages, including English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and Korean. 

You can get the software to read a list of articles while you drive, work or exercise, and there are auto-scrolling, full-screen and distraction-free modes to help you focus. Voice Dream Reader can be used with cloud solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Pocket, Instapaper and Evernote. 

Pricing for the app is $14.99 for the app for iOS, with further in-app purchases to unlock additional voices. For Android, the app costs $7.99, also with additional in-app purchases to unlock additional voices.

Image Credit: iSpeech

Other text to speech software to consider

There are a number of other software applications you can try or buy for converting text to speech (TTS), each one tending to focus on a different aspect. For example, some specialize in one area, such as providing speech for documents, or providing narration for ebooks. Then there are other software solutions that aim to be as comprehensive as possible. Each one has its own advantages and benefits, according to different user needs. We'll list some of the other speech-to-text options below:

iSpeech is especially good at providing text-to-speech in different audio formats. It can read text from most any document format and even chat apps, and save to Wav, MP3, ogg, wma, aiff, alaw, ulaw, vox, MP4 and other audio  formats. What's even better is that it provides mobile apps for use not just for Android or iOS devices, but also Blackberrys. 

Zabaware Text-to-Speech Reader has a range of voice options available to read any text, and there's a free version in which you can access the basic synthesized voice. However, there are upgrade packages available to use more realistic-sounding voices, not least the Cerevoice and AT&T voice packages, both starting at $24.95 as a one-off purchase.

Audio Book Reader is one of the more simple offerings, intended to help read ebooks aloud on your existing device. While it's capabilities are more limited than offers, it's Freeware and therefore costs nothing to try and use. You can also customize how the voice sounds by changing pitch and speed to suit your personal tastes.

Read4Me TTS Clipboard Reader is another simple but surprisingly versatile text-to-speech application that uses a pre-installed SAPI5 TTS voice to read the contents of your clipboard when a hotkey is pressed. This is where Read4Me TTS comes into its own, as you can set different hotkeys for different voices, and even languages. It can even auto-detect which language is to be read from. Better still, it's free to download, install and use. 

T2S: Text to Voice is an Android app that uses Google's own text-to-speech software. You can open or import a text file to be read, and save the output as an MP3 file. It also has a feature called Type Speak, which will provide audio for text as you speak, which could be especially helpful for people with communication problems. It's free to use, but does contain ads.

from TechRadar – All the latest technology news http://www.techradar.com/news/best-text-to-speech-software

Asus gaming laptops: how to find the best Asus gaming laptop for you

Every year PC gaming gets bigger and bigger, and the hardware that powers it gets more powerful. But, what if you want to take that power on the road? Well, there are plenty of Asus gaming laptops that will let you do just that.

With powerful hardware, gorgeous displays and dazzling aesthetics, Asus gaming laptops are leading the scene right now. But, picking the right one for your needs can get a bit complicated. So, you should ask yourself what you plan on doing with an Asus gaming laptop: do you want to play Apex Legends on the go, trying to be the last one standing? Or, do you want to experience Devil May Cry V in all of its edgy glory?

No matter what kind of games you want to play, there will be an Asus gaming laptop for you. And, we went ahead and gathered up some of the best Asus gaming laptops on the market, so you can spend less time shopping and more time in game. We also included our exclusive price comparison tool, so you can get a sick deal on the Asus gaming laptop of your dreams.

Image Credit: Asus

If you travel a lot, but you don’t want to be separated from the best PC games when you do, finding a thin and light Asus gaming laptop like the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 is a dream come true. Rocking up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080, there isn’t a AAA game out there that will be out of reach. Plus, it’s so thin, light and stylish that you’ll want to take it everywhere you go.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX701 

 Image Credit: Asus 

Sometimes a thin and light gaming laptop just isn’t going to cut it. Sure, they’re fun to carry around to play games on the subway or something, but when you need to pull out the big guns, a thick desktop replacement like the Asus ROG G703 is going to be your best bet. This beast only comes with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 and can be packed with up to 64GB of RAM so you’re going to cut through everything without a problem. As long as you have the cash, this is the most powerful Asus gaming laptop you’ll find anywhere.

Read the full review: Asus ROG G703 

 Image Credit: Asus 

When you go out looking for an Asus gaming laptop, you’ll find plenty of budget options and a lot of extremely expensive devices. However, the Asus ROG Strix Scar Edition is the best of both worlds, bringing performance on par with the best gaming PCs without setting you back thousands of dollars. It’s not the slimmest laptop in the world – not even the slimmest laptop on this list, but in terms of hardware, you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for, and we can’t complain about that.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix Scar Edition 

 Image Credit: Asus 

The Asus ROG Strix Hero II is marketed as a laptop for esports, and while its 144Hz display and RTX 2060 GPU is great for that, this Asus gaming laptop is capable of so much more. At 1080p, this attractive mid-range laptop should be able to play most, if not all, AAA games at 1080p with all the settings maxed out. It is a bit on the expensive side, but so are all Nvidia RTX laptops.

Read our hands-on: Asus ROG Strix Hero II 

 Image Credit: Asus 

We here at TechRadar love a thin and light gaming laptop, the ability to bring the best PC games on the road without having to compromise on performance is a win. And, while many super thin gaming laptops come with an extremely heavy price increase, the Asus Zephyrus M manages to keep things reasonable. We haven’t been able to get our hands on it for testing but, trust us, this isn’t a gaming laptop you’re going to want to pass on. It has yet to be refreshed with Nvidia RTX graphics, and while that’s a bummer, it does mean that you’ll likely find some sweet deals. 

from TechRadar – All the latest technology news http://www.techradar.com/news/asus-gaming-laptops-how-to-find-the-best-asus-gaming-laptop-for-you

The best iPad games of 2019

The iPhone revolutionized gaming through multitouch, but the iPad provided a larger canvas and power for fully immersive and expansive experiences.

Apple’s tablet remains a powerful, engaging gaming device, whether you delve into innovative touchscreen games, or use a controller for a more console-style experience.

Whatever you prefer, the very best games are found in our lists. Check back weekly for our latest favorite.

iPad game of the week: Tropico ($11.99/£11.99/AU$17.99)

Tropico is a dictator simulator masquerading as a strategy game. Well-known to PC players, Tropico finds you in control of a Caribbean island – and aiming to stay in power at all costs.

The free-form nature of the game affords you various routes to dealing with your people. Resources must be carefully balanced, so you can build the structures that will make hard cash, and keep people entertained and healthy. And if everything kicks off, you must quickly figure out the best way to deal with uprisings.

On iPad, this could all have been a complex mess, but the interface has been cleverly redesigned for touch, providing fast access to key commands through your ‘Dictator’s Desk’. It’s a great addition to a classic title – one that fully showcases the power that’s in the hands of any gamer armed with an iPad.

Our favorite iPad immersive adventures, point-and-click games, and story-led narratives.

Thimbleweed Park ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

Thimbleweed Park is a love letter to classic point-and-click adventures, designed by two of the industry’s most devious minds. Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick were the brains behind classics Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, and Thimbleweed Park is no less tricksy as you ostensibly attempt to solve a murder mystery.

We say ‘ostensibly’ because the dead body you quickly find is the least of your problems. Over the game’s length, you end up playing several characters, including feds, an aspiring game developer and a vulgar, down-on-his-luck clown.

The interface is a bit of a 1980s throwback, as is the difficulty level. Thimbleweed Park can be absurdly obtuse, and a little awkward. But there are few iPad adventures that match this one’s humor, heart and cunning – and no others that feature plumbers who happen to be paranormal investigators who dress as pigeons.

Subsurface Circular ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Subsurface Circular exists in a gray area between novella, short film and videogame. Set in a single carriage within an automated transit system, it features a cast of Teks – androids that have replaced humans in many of society’s roles.

You play a detective Tek, which spends its life interrogating other robots on the Subsurface Circular, and are immediately embroiled in a mystery. To say more would spoil things, so take it from us that the story entrances, twists and turns over its few hours.

Despite the single-scene setup, the game looks superb, with a cast of varied Teks and a familiar messaging-style interface that has a distinctly futuristic sheen. And if you’re concerned about the game’s brevity, be mindful you’d spend as much renting a film, and probably wouldn’t have nearly as much fun.

Adventures of Poco Eco – Lost Sounds ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Adventures of Poco Eco – Lost Sounds is as much an exploratory experience as a game. The hero discovers a ‘lost cassette’, which enables him to speak with spirit guides. They charge him with a musical quest: to bring sounds back to the land.

That might sound pretentious and ‘worthy’, but Poco Eco is more like a cartoon. One of your early guides is a massive bear, and Poco Eco jauntily scoots about the larger-than-life landscapes packed full of color and giant musical kit, bobbing his head to a soundtrack that evolves as puzzles are solved.

Said puzzles are, admittedly, dead simple. Poco Eco isn’t a game to fire up if you want your brain smashed in with a stiff challenge. It is, however, perfect for when you want to relax and immerse yourself in an album reimagined as an explorable world.

Starman ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Starman is an atmospheric adventure featuring a little astronaut trying to bring light to a monochromatic world. Its composed, unassuming air at times echoes Monument Valley. But the puzzles and slow, considered movement recall classic 1980s isometric puzzlers like Head Over Heels.

Regardless of its influences, Starman is a treat. Every puzzle you try offers something new – and some of them are really clever. The mechanics are never complex, but how they’re combined will often trip you up. Yet Starman is never unfair – when you hit upon a solution, it will seem so obvious.

The only real downside is there’s a chance the slothful pace will put off some players. It can be tiresome in some puzzles to watch the astronaut trudge back and forth. But for players who aren’t in a tearing hurry to blaze through every game, Starman’s a reflective, smart, memorable experience.

Flower ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Flower is a game that revels in bombing along as a petal on the wind, scything your way through fields of lush grassland, and soaring into the air above mountains and windmills.

Each environment starts with you playing as an individual petal. As you collide with other flowers, they bloom and offer a petal of their own to join yours, which soon becomes a spinning, swooping conga of color, wheeling above Flower’s tiny, beautiful worlds.

There’s a smattering of exploration and light puzzling in Flower, primarily to unlock more parts of each level, and discover secrets. But mostly this game is about enjoying an immediate, accessible, beautiful journey that has an emotional core and an exhilarating edge.

Voyageur ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Described by its creator as a literary RPG, Voyageur mixes text adventure with space trading. Imagine seminal classic Elite combined with Lifeline and you’re on the right track.

The story begins with you having bolted an alien ‘Descent Device’ to your ship, enabling faster-than-light travel – but only towards the center of the galaxy. You embark on a one-way journey, stopping off on planets to trade, explore, and become embroiled in side quests.

With the game being text-oriented and algorithmically generated, descriptions and events tend to repeat quite often. Still, if you at any point feel you’ve seen a planet before, you can leave with a few taps – and there are always new things waiting to be found. For anyone armed with an imagination, Voyageur becomes a unique, captivating experience.

Milkmaid of the Milky Way ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

This old-school adventure game is all the more impressive when you realize it’s the work of one man. From the delicate pixel art to the smart story – all delivered in rhyme – you’d think a team of clever people had beavered away on Milkmaid of the Milky Way rather than a sole individual.

The star of the show is Ruth. Her tools have vanished in a storm, and she needs to make cheese and butter to sell. It’s all very slow and relaxing – until a spaceship abruptly shows up and rudely steals her cows, propelling her into a rather more out-of-this-world experience.

If you’ve played this kind of game before, you’ll know what to expect – explore your surroundings, find objects, and figure out where to use them. 

But the difficulty curve is gentle enough to snare newcomers, while the feel and polish of the game should help it appeal to anyone who spent years taking on Lucasfilm fare on a PC.

Samorost 3 ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

From the creators of Machinarium and Botanicula, Samorost 3 is an eye-dazzlingly gorgeous old-school point-and-tap puzzler.

It follows the adventures of a gnome who sets out to search the cosmos and defeat a deranged monk who's smashed up a load of planets by attacking them with a steampunk hydra.

The wordless tale primarily involves poking about the landscape, revealing snatches of audio that transform into dreamlike animations hinting at what you should do next.

Although occasionally opaque, the puzzles are frequently clever, and the game revels in the joy of exploration and play. It's also full of heart – a rare enchanting title that gives your soul a little lift.

Love You to Bits ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Love You to Bits has a heart as big as a thousand iPads. It's a tap-based adventure that finds a little space explorer trying to retrieve pieces of his android girlfriend that have been scattered across the galaxy.

The mechanics are right out of classic point-and-click gaming, essentially having you amble about 2D locations, unearth items and then drop them in the right spot.

But the game is so relentlessly creative and inventive with its environments — full of dazzling visuals, references to movies and other games, and increasingly clever mechanics and ideas — that you can't help but love it to bits yourself.

Device 6 ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Device 6 is first and foremost a story — a mystery into which protagonist Anna finds herself propelled. She awakes on an island, but where is she? How did she get there? Why can't she remember anything? The game fuses literature with adventuring, the very words forming corridors you travel along, integrated puzzles being dotted about for you to investigate.

It's a truly inspiring experience, an imaginative, ambitious and brilliantly realised creation that showcases how iOS can be the home for something unique and wonderful. It's also extremely tough at times. Our advice: pay attention, jot down notes, and mull away from the screen if you get stuck.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP has in its DNA the essence of point-and-click classics, and is infused with a substantial sense of adventure. It’s a game that very much wants you to explore and interact with its mysterious and atmospheric world. It also happens to be a concept album.

That might sound weird, but you soon find your time within this game’s world is anything but usual. The delicate pixel art has many surprises and strangeness buried within, and the evocative soundtrack is a high point on the platform.

The storytelling is sparse and smart (if sometimes too knowing), and combat is rhythmic (if a touch clunky). In all, the mixture of music, occasional swordplay, and exploration is not to be missed.

Our favorite iPad arcade titles, including retro games, pinball, slice ’em ups, multiplayer party games, and innovative touchscreen creations.

Silverfish DX ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Silverfish DX is an unashamedly old-school arcade romp, albeit one with shiny modern visuals. You take the role of the titular silverfish, which finds itself surrounded by aquatic and very hungry enemies.

To survive, you must weave your way through the swarms, grabbing power pods that obliterate anything nearby. Max out your power – depleted during collisions – and you can briefly turn the tables on your foes by eating them.

This is a mix of Robotron’s claustrophobia (but without the shooty bits) and those moments in Pac-Man where you get to eat the ghosts. Like those titles, Silverfish DX is perhaps a bit one-note, and so won’t keep you glued for hours at a time, but the game’s purity and compelling, exciting gameplay ensures it’s always worth a quick dip.

Helix ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Helix has the appearance of a rough-and-ready 1980s arcade game. Your character, a chunky blinking eye, scoots about as adversaries rapidly appear from screen edges. The aim is survival, but fortunately you can do more than dodge (albeit less than shoot).

Move around an enemy and a line begins to encircle them. If the line is closed, the enemy explodes, giving you some breathing space. Some enemies require more orbits, or for you to encircle them in a specific direction, and that’s about it.

But Helix’s simplicity isn’t to its detriment. This is a focused, brilliantly conceived arcade blast that’s ideal fodder for iPad. The touchscreen controls are responsive, the lurid visuals are captivating, and the hard-as-nails gameplay has that one-more-go factor that will have you clamoring for more.

Trick Shot 2 ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Trick Shot 2 at its core is a game that has you lob a ball into a box. At first, despite its ultra-chic minimalist visuals, it all seems a bit simple – even dull. But this game’s charms win you over rapidly.

In part, this happens as the levels become increasingly ridiculous. You end up bouncing the ball off of giant bananas, or figuring out how to get it into one box within a sea of the things – all, of course, positioned at awkward angles.

Each time you think you’ve cracked it, something new arrives to test your lobbing abilities: levers; teleporters; power connectors. And even when you emerge victorious from the final challenge, that’s not the end of it, since Trick Shot 2 has its own built-in level editor.

Alto’s Odyssey ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Alto’s Odyssey is a one-thumb side-on endless survival game. It features the titular Alto, who has a thing for sandboarding on huge dunes, hurling himself into the air, performing all manner of tricks, and then trying to not land (i.e. crash) in a manner that results in a face full of sand.

This is perfect iPhone fodder, and perhaps not the kind of game you’d usually associate with iPad. But like its predecessor – the similarly impressive Alto’s Adventure – Alto’s Odyssey is a gorgeous game that’s deeper than it first appears.

Visually, it’s a treat, with arresting weather effects and day/night cycles. As you complete challenges, you slowly unlock new goals, environments, and abilities, but if at any point it all feels too much, you can switch off with the zero-risk Zen Mode, which leaves you with a serene soundtrack and endless desert.

FROST ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

FROST is a thoughtful, tactile game that feels like a living piece of art. Across dozens of scenes, sparks and barriers scythe across the screen while you direct flocking neon creatures towards orbs. Once the orbs fill, you can move on to the next challenge.

Ultimately, FROST is a path-finding puzzler. You use logic to understand the conditions before you, and how to meet your goal. But FROST feels very different from its contemporaries. The abstract visuals are exciting and fresh, but also it really wants you to play, experiment and discover.

Most of the puzzles tend to be simple, and you could probably blaze through the entire game in a few hours. But doing so would miss the point, because FROST is an iPad experience to bask in and savor.

Osmos for iPad ($4.99/$4.99/AU$7.99)

Osmos for iPad is an ‘ambient’ arcade game, and although it started life on PC, it’s a game that only really makes sense on a touchscreen.

Across eight distinct worlds, you control a tiny ‘mote’, propelled by ejecting pieces of itself, its direction of travel determined by your taps. Collide with a smaller mote and it’s absorbed. Your aim is to ‘become the biggest’.

When other motes are stationary, victory’s relatively easy – although very crowded levels require careful taps and judicious use of a time-warp slow-down feature.

But when levels feature ferocious motes intent on your demise, or the game shifts from microscopic warfare to motes speeding around a central giant – like celestial bodies orbiting a sun – brains and fingers alike will suddenly find Osmos a much sterner test.

At every point in the journey, Osmos is magnificent. Convince a friend to buy the game and engaging multiplayer arenas await too.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

You might balk at Pac-Man appearing in a best-of list for iPad games, but this isn’t your father’s arcade game. Sure, the basics remain: scoot about a maze, eating dots, avoiding ghosts, and turning the tables on them on eating a power pill. But Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is significantly faster, has neon-clad mazes and a thumping soundtrack, and the gameplay’s evolved in key areas.

First, the maze is split in two. Clear one side and a special object appears on the other, which refills the cleared side when eaten. Secondly, snoozing ghosts can be brushed past to fashion a spectral conga to shepherd, contain, and not blunder into –  until you eat a power pill, reverse course, and eat your pursuers to amass huge points.

In short, this game is superb, transforming an ancient classic into something fresh and exciting. And importantly, it works best on the large iPad display, because your fingers don’t get in the way of your frenetic dot-gobbling.

INKS. ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Pinball games tend to either ape real-world tables or go full-on videogame, with highly animated content that would be impossible on a real table. INKS. tries something different, boasting a modern 'flat design' aesthetic, and having coloured targets on each table that emit an ink explosion when hit with the ball.

Each of the dozens of tables therefore becomes a mix of canvas and puzzle as you try to hit targets while simultaneously creating a work of art. Neatly, as the ball rolls through ink splats, it creates paths across the table, which is visually appealing and also shows when your aim is off.

Because each level is short — usually possible to complete in a minute or so — INKS. manages to be both approachable enough for newcomers and different enough for experts to get some enjoyment out of.

Badland 2 ($0.99/99p/AU$1.49)

The first Badland combined the simplicity of one-thumb 'copter'/flappy games with the repeating hell of Limbo. It was a stunning, compelling title, pitting a little winged protagonist against all kinds of crazy ordeals in a forest that had clearly gone very wrong.

In Badland 2, the wrongness has been amplified considerably. Now, levels scroll in all directions, traps are deadlier, puzzles are tougher, and the cruelty meted out on the little winged beast is beyond compare. Still, all is not lost – the hero can now flap left and right. We're sure that comes as a huge consolation when it's sawn in half for the hundredth time.

ALONE… ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Because of the nature of touchscreen controls, there's a tendency to slow things down on iOS. ALONE… throws such caution to the wind, flinging you along at Retina-searing speed as you try in vain to save a little ship hurtling through rocky caverns of doom.

This is a game that's properly exciting, and where every narrow escape feels like a victory; that all you're doing is dragging a finger up and down, trying in vain to avoid the many projectiles sent your way, is testament to you not needing a gamepad and complex controls to create a game that genuinely thrills.

Power Hover ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

It turns out the future will involve hoverboards, only it'll be robots piloting them. In Power Hover, all the humans are gone, but so too are the batteries that power your robot village. So you hop on your flying board and pursue a thief through 30 varied and visually stunning levels.

Whether scything curved paths across a gorgeous sun-drenched sea or picking your way through a grey and dead human city, Power Hover will have you glued to the screen until you reach the end of the journey. And although it's initially tricky to get to grips with, you'll soon discover the board's floaty physics and controls are perfectly balanced.

Our favorite iPad games where you find objects cleverly hidden on-screen and use them to escape from virtual prisons.

Little Things Forever ($0.99/49p/AU$0.99)

Little Things Forever is the purest example of a hidden object game you’re likely to find on the App Store. There’s no overarching quest – no desire to be a sort-of adventure. Instead, you’re presented with a jumble of objects (that, when you squint, form cartoonish artwork), and things to find.

Depending on the challenge you’re tackling, you either get a full list, and aim to get through it as quickly as possible, or a timer and one item at a time to discover. Sporadically, the game has you complete basic jigsaw puzzles, in order to unlock new levels.

On the iPad’s larger screen, the game shines. It’s full of charm, and although the timers add some incentive for those who need it, Little Things Forever is perfectly relaxed if you feel like taking 'forever' on a single puzzle.

realMyst ($6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99)

realMyst is a new take on Myst, a Mac classic from the early 1990s. It dumps you on a strange island, giving you no clear ideas what to do next. The idea is to explore, check out every nook of the island, find clues, solve puzzles, and find new places in which to poke around.

To say realMyst is obscure is putting it mildly. Its puzzles can be baffling and cryptic, and smart players will arm themselves with a notepad – and a huge amount of patience.

However, this iPad version is a fantastic way to experience a gaming classic, with a more free-form approach to movement, beautiful revamped graphics, and the simple fact you can play it anywhere.

The Room: Old Sins ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

The Room: Old Sins pits you against devious puzzle boxes. Like previous games in the series, Old Sins is obsessed with the impossible. This time, you’re investigating the disappearance of an engineer and his wife. You spot what appears to be a corpse in a gloomy attic and are abruptly swept inside a doll house.

At this point, it’s all tap, swipe and drag, manipulating objects using your very best logical deduction until things happen. At one point you’ll discover a seemingly unending number of hidden compartments in a tiny model train. Elsewhere, something horrific and otherworldly will scream before forcibly ejecting you from a room.

If you’re a newcomer and puzzle fan, Old Sins is a no-brainer – a superb, coherent title with multiple-location challenges and none of the tedious walking around found in the likes of Myst. As for existing fans, you’ve probably already bought and finished the game anyway. If not, what are you waiting for?

Hidden Folks ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Hidden object games are often dull and can be heavy on the pocket, demanding you spend lots of money on IAP. Hidden Folks isn’t either of those things, and has the added bonus of being hugely charming.

You’re presented with hand-drawn scenes, each of which has a strip across the bottom, depicting objects to find. You can tap any of them for a clue, but the scene can also be interacted with, for example to rustle bushes to find someone lurking behind them.

Cute mouth-originated sound effects pepper proceedings, and the pace is varied with differing map sizes, and the odd playable scene, such as helping someone to a destination by adjusting the landscape.

Thus, with its wit and smarts, Hidden Folks very much stands out from the crowd – unlike some of the tiny critters it tasks you with locating.

Grim Legends: The Dark City ($6.99/£6.99/AU$AU$10.99)

Grim Legends: The Dark City lobs you in at the deep end. You’re the member of a secret organization tasked with guarding a powerful artifact – but a rogue agent stole it and unleashed an evil monster. Also, your mind was wiped in a recent mission. You must find the relic, fix the damage the monster’s causing, all while recovering your lost memories.

That sounds like a lot of work, but The Dark City’s fairly gentle in terms of challenge. The puzzles are straightforward – if varied – although the game does shake things up with Rune Battles. These find you fighting with runes, selecting symbols that don’t match your opponent’s ones. This is a nice change of pace, and nicely augments the lashings of atmosphere provided by very smart visuals, and a solid underlying storyline.

The Lost City ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

The Lost City broadly echoes Myst, in that it places you in a fantastical location, and challenges you to explore. In this case, you’ve discovered the titular city recounted to you by an elderly relative that no-one else believed.

As ever, the game involves examining locations, finding useful-looking objects to stash in your inventory, and using them to unlock pathways to further your adventures. But The Lost City has an intriguing hook: you can change the seasons. So if you can’t get past a river, perhaps you might be able to at a different time of year…

With lush (if static) visions, and a journal that handily automatically tracks symbols and clues, The Lost City proves to be a compelling and atmospheric experience.

All That Remains ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

All That Remains starts off in a harrowing manner, with you waking up in your father’s bunker. An old two-way radio crackles into life, and your distressed sister explains that the world has gone to hell, and that you’ve been locked up for your own safety. You resolve to rescue her from the chaos.

Unfortunately, your father turns out to be part sociopath, part crazy inventor. Rather than furnish you with a serviceable door handle with which to escape, you must figure out the convoluted path to an exit. Cue: lots of poking around, finding clues, figuring out the meaning behind symbols, and piecing everything together. At its best, this is tense, challenging stuff – ideal if you find your existing hidden object games something of a pushover.

Agent A ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Agent A combines an escape game with the swagger of a spy movie. It starts with you following Ruby La Rouge, who obliterates a boat – and your boss. Deciding that’s rather out of order, you break into Ruby’s house – and she locks you in. Presumably the glass is very tough, because you can’t smash through it. Instead, you must figure out an absurdly convoluted path to make your escape.

This game has a pleasingly spiky, angular art style, and breezy responses when you interact with objects. The actual puzzles are perhaps a bit pedestrian, but the game frequently neatly ties together details and clues across multiple locations. Also, rather generously, Agent A has expanded from its initial sole chapter to a five-part episodic tale, offering plenty of espionage bang for your bucks.

Forever Lost ($11.99/£11.99/AU$17.99)

The Forever Lost series (three games, available separately if you don’t want the bundle) begins with you waking up in an unfamiliar room. Freaky as though that is, getting out is simple; the scary bit is it’s clear others have been here before you.

Also, when you do escape your confines, you merely find yourself in the bigger prison of an abandoned asylum. The game then follows a familiar pattern of scanning rooms for objects and clues, using them to move your quest onward.

Although visually bleak and drab, Forever Lost’s atmosphere and weirdness keeps you gripped. And you can’t help but love a game with its own in-game camera, to snap objects for later reference, so you don’t have to manually make notes elsewhere.

Our favorite iPad platform games, including free-roaming adventures, retro-infused titles, and modern console-style classics.

Linn: Path of Orchards ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Linn: Path of Orchards is an unconventional platform game, which takes place in a world of dynamic, rotating surfaces. You must help protagonist Aban to each level’s exit, grabbing bling along the way.

Although you can sort of brute-force your way through the game, making use of gestures to dash left and right, and mid-air jump, you’re better off embracing the elegance and thoughtfulness that exists at the heart of Linn. Think of each challenge as a turn-based test, and figure out the optimum sequence of moves to your goal.

Multiple challenges per level, stylish visuals, and a lovely soundtrack further ensure Linn is something special – an engaging mash-up of Monument Valley-style visual minimalism, clockwork structures, and parkour-like sliding and leaping.

see/saw ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

see/saw is a platform game that features a sadistic professor (whose credentials we’re extremely skeptical of) putting a speedy protagonist through ostensibly scientific tests. Said tests mostly involve the subject collecting coins, but also avoiding hazards. Increasingly frequently as you explore each single-screen room, your untimely demise is the key to reaching the last coin.

Its basic controls – hold the left or right of the screen to head in that direction – mean see/saw works really nicely on the iPad’s large display, but this stripped-back approach to platform gaming doesn’t make for dumbed-down level design. In fact, as you progress, challenges become devious, with you having to figure out how to impale the hero just so, in order to reach that final target. 

Spitkiss ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Spitkiss is unique in the App Store, what with it featuring tiny creatures that communicate by lobbing bodily fluids at each other. But how you get spittle and the like from one to the other plays like Angry Birds became a single-screen platformer, and then had Matrix-style slo-mo welded to it.

To get started, you aim and fling some spittle, and then direct it from surface to surface until the blob reaches its goal. Hold the screen and time slows, allowing you to prepare your next shot – essential given the claustrophobic and hazard-strewn screens you face.

This all works particularly well on iPad. You’ve plenty of space to move your finger, and can be far more accurate on the larger screen. The vibrant visuals are arresting, too, even if you might feel squeamish about flinging spit.

Suzy Cube ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Suzy Cube is a platform game set in a world with a thing for straight edges. Assuming you’ve played a platformer before, you know the drill: explore; grab gold; unsportingly jump on the heads of enemies to obliterate them.

But Suzy Cube goes beyond the stripped-back 2D fare we often see on iOS for something akin to Super Mario 3D Land. This means you may find yourself quickly swapping between skidding down icy mountains in 3D, following Suzy Cube as she runs side-on around a tower, and then delicately leaping between floating platforms, as seen from above.

Bar some duff boss battles, it’s ambitious, entertaining fare, with tight touchscreen controls, and a great sense of pace and variety as you delve into the world and discover its many hidden secrets.

Oddmar ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Oddmar is a Viking who’s not good at being a Viking, but he’s forced into action when his village vanishes and an evil takes over the land. Cue: swiftly munching a magic mushroom to get some special powers, followed by quite a lot of platforming action.

And what platforming action! Oddmar looks and feels like nothing else on iPad. Although the gameplay mechanics are familiar (leap about, explore, collect bling, hack up enemies, don’t get killed), the production values here are something else. Oddmar’s world feels alive, and each level has been painstakingly constructed, imbuing the game with smarts and pace.

Peppered with set pieces, survival-oriented ‘dream’ levels, and varied challenges, and blessed with pitch-perfect touchscreen controls, Oddmar is only to be missed if you can’t stand this kind of game. And even then, we suggest taking a look anyway – just in case.

VVVVVV ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

VVVVVV is an old-school twitch platformer. It strings a bunch of single-screen challenges together, gives them silly names, peppers restart points about, and then sits back with an evil grin as you blunder into traps time and time again.

The main twist is VVVVVV’s use of gravity. Instead of jumping, your running man can switch between ceiling and floor. Most rooms within the game cleverly play with this gravity mechanic. There are bounce pads, roaming enemies, and columns of screens where you weave your way down through columns of spikes, and then head back, all because some nutcase didn’t think to install a small bridge.

Visually, the game is odd – 1980s-style graphics, which also look blurry on iPad. The virtual controls are occasionally slippy too. Mostly, though, it’s a joy (albeit sometimes a head-bangingly frustrating one), with smart writing and clever puzzle-infused level design.

Thomas Was Alone ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Thomas Was Alone is a platform adventure that tells the tale of a self-aware artificial intelligence. Said AI is represented as a little red rectangle, charged with leaping about blocky environments, and reaching the exit. Along the way, other AIs appear, each with its own distinct abilities, which you must make best use of to get everyone to their goals.

What sets Thomas Was Alone apart is its storytelling. The little rectangles are imbued with big personalities, and a voiceover gives you a window into their thoughts, which is often meta and frequently entertaining. After all, it’s hard not to love a game that finds the hero peering at certain doom, before the voiceover notes: “Something about the boiling, toxic, glowing water intimidated Thomas. He didn’t like it, and he certainly didn’t want to swim in it.”

Still, you’ll want to swim in this game, because it’s a beautifully realized production.

Mushroom 11 ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Mushroom 11 finds you controlling a living pile of green gunge that gloops its way around a post-apocalyptic world. Its mission appears to be hoovering up whatever life is desperately clinging on in this harsh landscape, from tiny spiders to mutated plants that spit fire.

If you had to label it, Mushroom 11 is a fairly traditional side-on platform puzzler, but the manner in which it’s controlled proves transformative. There’s no virtual joystick here – instead, you touch to ‘erase’ bits of the green blob, which then rapidly grows back.

This mechanic is used inventively throughout the game, whether you’re figuring out how to zoom through tunnels, make the blob ‘jump’, or split it in two, so one part can trigger a switch while the rest moves onward. On iPad, the game is one of a kind and a tactile joy.

INSIDE (free + $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 IAP)

INSIDE is a puzzle-heavy platform game that charts a boy’s adventures in a chilling dystopia. It begins with him fleeing from armed men. You must duck behind trees and flee from ferocious dogs or end up dead, face-down in the dirt.

But death is not the end; like INSIDE’s predecessor, the equally disturbing LIMBO, the hero here seems doomed to repeat every failure until it becomes a victory.

It’s trial and error time, then. You run through a building, get horribly killed, take some mental notes, and then try again. Occasionally, this gets old; some sequences in the game are too long, and a couple have a margin of error that’s too tight.

For the most part, though, this is a game of intriguing puzzles and a mesmerizing – if extremely dark – world, packed full of surprises, horror and tiny victories.

Mos Speedrun ($0.99/99p/AU$1.99)

Mos Speedrun is an engaging speed-run Mario-ish platform game, featuring a little bug zooming through 25 hand-crafted levels. The crude visuals feel decidedly old-school, featuring the usual floating platforms and patrolling enemies that mostly lack even the slightest hint of intelligence.

But Mos Speedrun turns out to be one of the finest games of its kind on iPad.

First, the level design is really smart, forcing you to learn the precise position of every platform, gap, and enemy, if you want to beat the speed-run target. Secondly, each level has alternate targets – finding a hidden skull, and collecting all the loot – that boost replay value, but also force you to shake up your approach.

Finally, Mos Speedrun amusingly subverts the idea of ‘ghost’ replays. Die a lot and you end up battling your way through a level alongside the spirits of the fallen from your previous failures. It’s bonkers – and humbling – when dozens of the things are skittering about.

Kalimba ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Kalimba is an inventive and compelling platform game for people bored with controlling just one character at once. Here, you help two colored totem pieces avoid deadly pits and roaming enemies – and you control both simultaneously.

Initially, you’re eased in by way of a split-screen set-up where the totems don’t meet. At all times, you must be mindful that when one totem’s on safe ground, the other may be seconds from doom. And then the game really starts shaking things up.

You’re soon faced with color barriers that force you to repeatedly swap the totems around, the prospect of ‘stacking’ and double-jumping to reach gems, gravity flipping, totems that fly through the air while their partners very much don’t, and chase sequences featuring massive, terrifying bosses.

If it’s all a bit much alone, there’s a superb two-player single-device mode – although how much actual co-operation there’ll be when you’re juggling four totems and your friend hurls you into a lava pit, it’s hard to say.

Traps n' Gemstones ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Traditional platform games often fare poorly on iPad, but Traps n' Gemstonesbucks the trend. Its approach is resolutely old-school, from the on-screen controls to the Metroid-style gameplay that involves exploring a huge interconnected world, opening up new passageways by finding and correctly using objects.

The theme, though, is more Indiana Jones. A little chap, armed with a whip and with a fedora on his head, leaps about a pyramid, grabs loot, and gives mummies and snakes a good whipping. Interestingly, the game simultaneously manages to appeal to casual and hardcore gamers.

Progress doesn't reset, meaning you can keep getting killed but gradually work your way into the bowels of the pyramid. But your score reverts to zero when you come a cropper; getting into the thousands is therefore a big challenge for those who want to take it.

Drop Wizard ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Drop Wizard is a single-screen effort that initially resembles a tribute to arcade classics Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros – but it turns out Drop Wizard is a very different beast.

It's part auto-runner, which might infuriate retro-gamers, but this proves to be a brilliant limitation in practice.  Your little wizard never stops running, and emits a blast of magic each time he lands. You must therefore time leaps to blast roaming foes, and then boot the dazed creatures during a second pass.

This is a vibrant, fast-paced, engaging game. And since you you only ever move left or right, it’s nicely optimized for touchscreen play.

Our favorite iPad brain-teasers, logic games, sliding puzzlers, match-three games, and path-finding titles.

Where Shadows Slumber ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Where Shadows Slumber has a lush, minimalist art style with more than a whiff of Monument Valley about it, but instead of having you manipulate impossible architecture, Where Shadows Slumber has you rework the landscape by casting shadows across it.

This all happens by way of your lamp. Position yourself just so and structures will shroud an area in darkness; when it’s subsequently lit, what was a hole may become a bridge, or an impassable doorway may be opened.

It’s a captivating organic adventure, where you figure out the rules as you go along.There’s also darkness in this world beyond the shadows, with villainous creatures who’ll seemingly stop at nothing to rob you of your light.

Blask ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Blask is a world of laser beams and mirrors. Your goal is to direct each laser beam to a target. One brief light show later, it’s on to the next test.

This in itself is nothing new – there are loads of games for iPad where you bounce lasers around  – but Blask transforms each level into a set of puzzle pieces. As you manipulate what appears to be a single ‘room’ beneath your fingers, it breaks into pieces, lasers refracting within.

There’s a tactile joy in experimenting with recombining shapes, moving those that aren’t fixed down, and figuring out the precise setup that allows you to complete your goal. It’s perhaps a touch finicky and twitchy at times, but otherwise Blask is a game that feels perfectly suited to sit-down iPad play.

Chuchel ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Chuchel is part puzzler, part interactive cartoon – and a decidedly strange one at that. It features an angry ball of fluff who’s determined to eat a cherry, but every time he gets the fruit, it’s snatched away by a giant hand seemingly on loan from Monty Python.

Your part is to help Chuchel get the cherry, mostly by tapping hot-spots to decide his next action. These unleash canned animations, most of which – in classic cartoon fashion – result in Chuchel falling over or otherwise failing at his task.

This isn’t the most cerebral of puzzle games – far from the brain-smashing fare you might expect from creators Amanita Design – and it can be a grind if you have to play through a section a number of times before cracking the correct sequence. Nevertheless, Chuchel is full of so much charm and weirdness that it’s easily worth the outlay.

7 Billion Humans ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

7 Billion Humans takes place in a world run by benevolent robots who do all of the work. But, of course, the humans still aren’t happy, and so the robots give them jobs – stupid, pointless jobs. In effect, doddering folks become parts of a living computer, and you’re tasked with ‘programming’ them to pick up boxes and put them down somewhere else.

It sounds dull, but it’s actually riveting. Like predecessor Human Resource Machine, this is a game that takes real-life programming concepts and infuses them into a turn-based puzzler.

On the iPad particularly, the drag-and-drop interface for crafting coding logic works wonderfully, and the screen’s big enough that you can spot precisely what’s going on with your work. The larger display doesn’t hurt when taking in the bitingly satirical (but generally good-natured) cut-scenes either.

Golf Peaks ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Golf Peaks might look a lot like a mini-golf game, but it’s really a strategic turn-based puzzler that takes place on tiny angular golf courses hewn into rectangular hillsides.

Each round has you try to get the ball in the hole, only instead of aiming and firing, you use movement cards, and only state the direction in which you want the ball to travel.

This is child’s play when your ball’s one square from the hole and you have a ‘move one square’ card, but when you’ve all manner of jumping and movement cards and are staring at a complex course packed will hills and hazards, this seemingly simplistic golfing puzzler takes on new dimensions.

Persephone ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Persephone looks like a pretty run-of-the-mill isometric puzzler. There’s an exit you have to reach, which requires you to do things like shove boxes about and flip switches. But then you fall into a ditch, die, and the game… carries on going, with you controlling your resurrected self.

Your corpses (you can have up to three) are then used to great effect, in the sense of adding to the complexity of the puzzles, but also in being darkly comic. It’s hard to think of any other iOS puzzler where you must shove a line of dead ‘yous’ along, in order to trigger a switch.

This is another great example, then, in how a twist can shake up a well-worn format, making it new, interesting, unique, and – in this case – more than a little macabre!

ELOH ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

ELOH is a chilled-out puzzle game that wants you to find your inner groove. Each single-screen level has you send blobs from loudspeakers to goals, bouncing them off of various objects. Some of those objects are masks, which can be used to change blobs’ colors, so they match their target goals.

This is a game of order, played to a background beat, and with precise 90-degree bounces. But the game also wants you to gradually carve out a solution by playing the puzzle live. This is especially useful when you find yourself facing increasingly complex layouts that demand labyrinthine paths to be constructed.

On iPad, this all works particularly well – the larger display makes everything a lot clearer, and objects are easier to work with. Having the music pump out of louder speakers doesn’t hurt either!

In the Dog House ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99)

In the Dog House is a sliding puzzler that has a cute veneer yet plenty of bite. It features a mutt in an oddball house with moving rooms and lifts aplenty. Its only goal in life is to get to a bowl of dog food, irritatingly (from the pooch’s standpoint) situated on the far side of the dwelling.

Your job is to slide corridors, elevator shafts and other bits of building around, using a bone to urge the ravenous canine onwards. As ever with this kind of game, you must think several moves ahead because the space you have to work in is extremely limited.

Linear level unlocking can be frustrating when you get stuck, but In the Dog House is otherwise a furry good game that will give you paws and hound your brain until you complete the entire tail. (Sorry.)

Evergarden ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Evergarden is a strategy-oriented match game set in a fantastical forest of geometry and surprisingly demanding wildlife.

Every game begins as a hexagonal grid on which flowers of varying sizes are arranged. Each of your limited turns has you work through the flowers, deciding whether they should spit a seed into an adjacent space, or combine with a matching bloom. It comes across like a glossy and noodly gardening take on Threes!

But there’s more to Evergarden than these basics. Creature guide Fen makes demands that hugely ramp up your potential for high scores when achieved, and a narrative plays out alongside the puzzles.

This adds extra heart to the game, but also depth – things you find on your journey unlock new strategies, and provide added impetus for doing even better during your next go.

Donut County ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Donut County is a story-led puzzle game where you play as a hole in the ground. As you consume items, you get bigger; so whereas at first you might be able to gulp down a tin can, you’re eventually guzzling vehicles, houses, and mountains.

All of this happens alongside an oddball storyline featuring a naughty raccoon who’s been sending people the hole rather than the donuts they’ve ordered. Everyone’s now underground, figuring out how to get back to the surface.

The game doesn’t take more than a few hours to complete, not least because only a few levels tease the brain beyond the simplest of challenges. However, the journey is wonderful, especially on the iPad – the bright visuals shine, and the larger canvas makes dragging the hole around, gobbling everything in sight, all the more pleasing.

Scalak ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Scalak is all about matching shapes, finding patterns in objects, and spatial awareness. It begins easily enough: you’re asked to drag a square piece to a square hole – hardly the toughest challenge you’ll have faced on iPad!

But across Scalak’s dozens of levels, the game gradually increases the complexity of the objects you face, which eventually resemble exploded 3D jigsaws. You start rotating and moving the central section, and must place pieces that have been bent across multiple planes. Elsewhere, you construct frameworks on to which other pieces connect.

With no score nor timers, Scalak becomes all about interaction – a tactile, stress-free game of exploration and puzzle solving that’s ideal on the iPad’s large display.

Bring You Home ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Bring You Home is a puzzler featuring rotund alien, Polo, who’s on a mission to rescue a kidnapped pet. The snag: the ‘petnappers’ have a habit of darting through portals.

What follows are dozens of single-screen scenes where you figure out how to reach an exit, but instead of controlling Polo, you rearrange and swap out sections of the scene, before pressing a button to see how things then play out.

If you’ve played Framed, Bring You Home is in similar territory, but is far more varied – Polo at various points ends up in living paintings, a bizarre alien circus, and a graveyard where you deal with spooky adversaries.

It’s adorable, silly, and relentlessly imaginative, and the failure animations are entertaining to the point you’ll want to go back and screw things up should you chance upon the correct solution first time round.

Gorogoa ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Gorogoa is a perplexing puzzle game that plays with your perception of space, and challenges you to find links between images that aren’t remotely obvious on an initial glance.

The entire thing takes place in a two-by-two grid, within which comic-book panes can be opened up and manipulated. Often, part of an image can be separated and overlaid on another.

For example, a stairs overlay may enable the protagonist to reach a previously inaccessible space, or what appears to be a star-like decorative element might be a cog in an impromptu machine.

Occasionally, Gorogoa baffles; later on, you may hit mental dead-ends, juggling various components, locations and possibilities in your head. But as a tactile, novel, engaging puzzler, there’s little else like Gorogoa on iPad – and you’ll feel like a genius when you reach its conclusion.

GNOG ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

GNOG is bonkers. It features nine floating heads, which are gateways to miniature worlds of interactive animated madness that you poke, prod, tap and swipe to make things happen.

Your tasks are often quite mundane: fix a spaceship; feed some birds; recover chests from the ocean depths. But the presentation disarms – all bold shapes, primary colors and bloopy audio, like a children’s toy hopped up on sugar. It goes even more psychedelic when you complete a level and the head starts mooing.

If you’re making a face yourself at that particular thought, just grab GNOG and delve deep into an entertainingly madcap game of exploration that revels in the joy of discovery. Fire up the AR mode, plonk GNOG’s strange toys on a table, and you’ll wish real toys were even half as much fun to play with.

Campfire Cooking ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Campfire Cooking seems to simulate the joy of cooking around a campfire – if everyone wanted to make the process as awkward as possible. Fires are set about a grid. Move your stick left or right and your marshmallow flips upside down. You must toast both sides just once – burnt treats will not be tolerated.

The campfire’s set-up rapidly increases in complexity, too, giving you multiple sticks that can nudge others, sticks that spin, meals in pots that must also be cooked, and magnets to drag the metal pots around.

It’s totally ridiculous but hugely compelling, and the game looks superb on the iPad’s display. The larger device also works well with Campfire Cooking’s ‘physicality’ – although you will at times want to yell: “Just point your stupid marshmallow at the fire already.”

Monument Valley 2 ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Monument Valley 2 echoes its predecessor in having you explore isometric Escher-like worlds packed full of optical illusions. The aim in each level is to reach a goal, which is often achieved by manipulating the landscape, creating pathways that in the real world simply could not exist.

It’s a visually stunning game, with tiny levels crammed with vibrancy and details, making it ideal for the iPad’s larger display. The narrative featuring a mother and daughter also satisfies, but is careful to leave the experience with a sense of mystery. The levels are diverse in feel, demands, and structure.

If there’s any downside it’s that Monument Valley 2 is short and largely bereft of challenge. But treat it as a couple of hours immersed in a unique and beautiful universe and you’ll find it’s well worth the outlay.

Causality ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Many path-finding puzzlers have you use arrow tiles to direct auto-running critters to goals. (Long-time gamers may fondly remember ChuChu Rocket! as a shining example).

Causality is in similar territory, only you also get to control time itself, by dragging up and down the screen.

Early on, this primarily allows you to fix errors – going back to try again when a sprinting astronaut is eaten, or when you run out of your limited number of steps. Before long, though, you’re hurling people through time portals, so they can assist their past selves.

It’s mind-bending stuff, but also one of the finest puzzle games of modern times. It’s also perfect for iPad, due to its visually dazzling and tactile nature.

Splitter Critters ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

The basic mechanics of Splitter Critters resemble 1990s arcade puzzler Lemmings, in that you guide marching creatures to a goal. But whereas you armed lemmings with tools, Splitter Critters has you slice up the screen with a finger, so you can adjust the landscape to create new pathways.

This is clever, but Splitter Critters isn’t done. The undo button reverts your last cut, but not the position of critters. Undo therefore becomes a device vital for completing levels, rather than merely a means of reverting errors.

Throughout its length, the game keeps adding new elements, such as ocean worlds and a grim underground base full of critter-frying lasers. And although the challenge never rises above slight, the charm and tactile nature of Splitter Critters makes it a joyful journey, especially on the iPad’s larger display.

Twisted Lines ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Twisted Lines is another great iOS puzzler with simple rules, but also level design seemingly created to drive you to despair. Each of the 100 levels involves you directing a little colored block that leaves a trail of two colors, but should you cross over the trail, your block changes color to match the first line it hits.

This is pretty important, given that your task is to scoop up colored blocks littered about claustrophobic, deviously designed single-screen puzzles. From the start, Twisted Lines is a pleasingly tricky challenge, and it keeps adding further complications – trail erasers; teleporters – to keep you on your toes.

If there’s any drawback to the game, it’s the strict linear unlock of levels (presumably, this is designed to urge you to grab hint IAPs if you get stuck). But other than that niggle, Twisted Lines is a brain-teaser among the very best on iPad.

Telepaint ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

In Telepaint, a semi-sentient wandering paint pot wants nothing more than to be reunited with a brush. The tiny snag: it appears to be stuck in a world of brain-bending maze-like tests, comprising single screens of platforms and teleporters. Your goal is to figure out a route, avoiding pot-puncturing spikes and a clingy magnetic 'friend' – a task that becomes increasingly baffling and complex.

You're helped along a little by VCR-style controls that let you pause for breath, and these often become key to solving puzzles, enabling you to switch teleport triggers while everything else on-screen remains static. Even then, the going's tough.

Still, while Telepaint has the propensity to make your head hurt like having a paint can dropped on it, this is a colorful, unique and enjoyable iOS puzzling classic that's not to be missed.

A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

The little monster at the heart of A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build, wants some friends, and so sets about making them from crisp snow covering the ground. But as the game's title states, making snowman is hard — largely because of strict rules governing the monster's universe.

Snowmen must comprise precisely three balls of gradually decreasing size, and any snowball rolled in the snow quickly grows. A Good Snowman therefore becomes a series of brain-bending puzzles – part Soko-Ban, part Towers of Hanoi – as you figure out how to manipulate balls of snow to build icy friends for a monster to hug. 

Our favorite iPad 3D, space, retro, top-down, and on-rails racers.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit [US store] | [non-US stores] is an old-school high-octane racer that echoes pursue-and-smash classic Chase HQ. You tear along in your police car, aiming to batter nasty criminals into submission. Then, during your downtime, you and your cop chums partake in dangerous high-speed races.

Visually, Hot Pursuit is sometimes a touch crude, with background pop-up betraying the original game’s age, but the cars and roadside objects still look nice enough on a Retina iPad. Most importantly, the game feels really good – not least during moments when you fire up the nitro, drift round a bend, and smash the baddie into a roadblock. And if you don’t fancy being the fuzz? You can leap into your sports car in a parallel storyline and become mouse rather than cat.

Grid Autosport ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

Grid Autosport feels like the first of a new breed of iPad games, where a claim of ‘console quality’ isn’t hyperbole. This really is a pretty much direct conversion of the hit PC and PlayStation racer, squeezed into your iPad.

There’s no messing about with grinding and currencies here – you can immediately delve into everything the app has to offer, choosing from its huge range of challenges, cars, and circuits. Everything from a quick race in an open-top to a full Touring Cars season is just a few taps away.

With a range of control options and difficulty settings, the game manages to cater to arcade fans and simulation nuts alike; and when armed with an iPad and an MFi controller, the only thing betraying the fact you’re not playing on a console is the size of the screen.

Fluid SE ($0.99/99p/AU$1.49)

Fluid SE appears to have arrived from the unholy union of Pac-Man and a brutally difficult time-trial racer set in a hostile underwater world of black fish and deadly red ghosts.

Each test has you zoom about, scooping up dots, and attempting to beat time targets. If you’re fast enough, you get the stars needed to unlock new levels; if not, you’ll need to work on shaving fractions of a second off of your best times.

The snag is levels rapidly increase in complexity, and dots you eat spawn the aforementioned ghosts, which relentlessly chase you around the screen. There are ways of dealing with them, but often that involves slowing down.

Fluid SE therefore becomes a thrilling game of risk versus reward, where everything plays out at breakneck speed – right up until you’re devoured by an angry ghost.

Reckless Racing HD ($0.99/49p/AU$0.99)

Reckless Racing HD is a top-down racer that first graced the App Store way back in 2012. It’s different from its contemporaries in having you coax battered vehicles around ramshackle tracks.

There’s no slick tarmac – bar a mall parking lot that forms part of a course. More often, you’re zooming about the likes of a wrecker’s yard, or dirt roads near an old church that rises majestically out of the screen like it’s about to poke you in the eye.

Given a 64-bit reprieve in mid-2017, Reckless Racing HD is a fantastic blast from the past. The cars have a great sense of weight – the physics when racing is just about perfect. And although it now looks a bit rough and ready, it’s decidedly more reckless (and fun) than its overly polished sequel, and includes the online multiplayer that the most recent entry in the series lacks.

AG Drive ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

In the future, it turns out people have tired of racers zooming about circuits on the ground. In AG Drive, tracks soar into the air – akin to massive roller-coasters along which daredevil racers of the day speed, gunning for the checkered flag.

This is a pure racing game – all about learning the twists and turns of every circuit, and the thrill of breakneck speed. The only weapons you have available are strategy and skill. And this suits the kind of stripped-back controls that work best on iPad – tilting to steer, and using thumbs to accelerate, brake, and trigger a turbo.

Also, while some slightly irksome IAP lurks, there’s little need to splash out. The game’s difficulty curve is such that you can gradually improve your skills and ship, working your way through varied events until you become an out-of-this-world racing legend. (Or, if you’re a bit rubbish, an ugly stain on the side of a massive metal building.)

Go Rally ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

It’s ‘maniacally yet methodically skidding through dirt tracks time’ in Go Rally, an overhead arcade-oriented take on zooming along like a lunatic, against the clock.

Aside from some nicely rendered courses, Go Rally’s a winner through its controls, solid physics, and relatively short tracks. Playing doesn’t feel like an ordeal to be overcome – instead, the brevity of the courses makes Go Rally akin to a Trials title, where you can conceivably master every turn.

The career mode eases you in gently, gradually unlocking access to new cars and tougher races. And if you get fed up with what the game throws at you, it’s even possible to scribble on your iPad’s screen to fashion new tracks of your own. The tracks of your dreams – and everyone else’s nightmares – can then be inflicted on the world at large.

Rush Rally 2 ($0.99/79p/AU$1.99)

Rush Rally 2 claims to be the most authentic rally simulation on your iPad, although it initially comes across as a bit picky and stiff. It’s very easy to find yourself skidding off the track, or having unfortunately embedded your car in a tree rather than skillfully navigated a turn.

Once the controls click, though, Rush Rally 2 does the business. Your best bet, oddly, is not to rush – at least at first. Figure out the handling, learn the courses, and only then properly put your foot down. Rush Rally 2 will then reveal itself to be an entertaining and exciting racer, whether you’re deep in a full-on championship, or getting a bit smashy while vying for the lead in a Rally Cross race.

Riptide GP: Renegade ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Riptide GP: Renegade is the third entry in the Riptide series, and again finds you in a souped-up jetski called a hydrojet, bombing along watery circuits flanked by futuristic metal skyscrapers.

But unlike its (equally impressive) predecessor’s official racing championship, Renegade’s splashy racing involves illegal bouts set in flooded ruins and deadly factories – playing for reputation rather than an adoring TV audience.

The racing is still superb, with its mix of insane speed and ridiculous stunts – hit a ramp and it’s expected you’ll show off by spinning your hydrojet around or performing a handstand on top of it. Despite some dodgy story bits and a slightly grindy upgrade path, Renegade is an exhilarating racer – and one that also gets away from tarmac and gleaming metal tracks.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Need for Speed: Most Wanted [US store] | [non-US stores] thumbs its nose at simulation racing, but still parks itself somewhat in the real world.

Mostly, it’s all about speeding along like a maniac, with arcade-style controls reminiscent of classic console and arcade title OutRun 2. You’ll drift for miles, soar through the air in a manner cars are most definitely not designed for, and smash into other road users with merry abandon.

But being that this is a Need for Speed title, all this happens in a grim and gritty city, packed with cops. It’s a bit too drab at times – we’d love to see a bit of blue sky – but is nonetheless a tremendous iOS racer that feels great to play.

Our favorite iPad twin-stick shooters, FPS titles, precision shooting games, and scrolling shoot ’em ups.

ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

ATOMIK: RunGunJumpGun is a murderously difficult yet gripping auto runner/shooter. Like the mutant offspring of ALONE… and Jetpack Joyride, it has you blast your way through neon-soaked corridors packed with enemies, spikes, bullets and massive saw blades.

The tiny snag is the protagonist is a massive idiot. Rather than pick his way through the carnage, he belts along, using a gun to blast ahead (whereupon he loses altitude) or downward (in order to gain height). Juggling these minimal options while figuring out a route – and getting the timing right to stay alive – is extremely tricky.

Amusingly, levels also contain collectables – a gift for ‘self-hating completionists’. If that all sounds a bit much, there is a slightly less deranged Shield mode, which will only leave you 50% of a nervous wreck.

Holedown ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Holedown has you fire strings of balls at numbered blocks to obliterate them and dig deeper toward a planet’s core. You have limited shots and a set number of balls per shot, so you must carefully aim and strategize, prioritizing ‘fixed’ bricks that won’t fall if those beneath them are destroyed.

The basic premise may be familiar – plenty of freebies are broadly similar – but whereas they ruin things with difficulty gates and IAP, Holedown is a premium, polished game. Upgrades come by way of gems found during digs, rewarding skill rather than your ability to open your wallet.

Although the game is repetitive, it’s more hypnotic than grindy, and fun when you nail a perfect shot, sending a group of balls through a tiny gap for them to bounce around like wasps trapped in a jar.

Jydge ($8.99/£8.99/AU$13.99)

Jydge plonks you in a grubby, neon-lit dystopia, with nasty ideas about law enforcement. As the titular ‘jydge’, you go on missions that largely involve shooting bad guys, ‘confiscating’ loot, and rescuing the odd hostage.

The anything-goes nature of Jydge initially wrong-foots, because the viewpoint and setup scream stealth shooter. You think you’ll be sneaking about, like a ninja with a gun. In reality, it’s often more like a brains-free twin-stick blaster.

That said, Jydge does have some tactical nous when it comes to challenges that are initially impossible. Actions can affect levels permanently, meaning with a little thought – and quite a lot of violence – you can by way of a few ‘stacked’ attempts in fact clear a tricky scene in 20 seconds, assuming your thumbs can keep up as you revel in the mayhem.

Space Junk ($0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49)

Space Junk is what happens when someone rethinks classic arcade blaster Asteroids and goes all-out, souping it up for the iPad. The basics remain: you’re floating in space, blowing everything around you to smithereens. Big things, when blasted, split into smaller things. UFOs take occasional pot-shots. Anything that hits you kills you.

But everything’s handled with such grace and good humor that you can’t help but be enthralled. The controls – despite being dreaded virtual buttons – work nicely, aided by subtle inertia on your little spaceman.

For those who prefer precision over random blasting, there’s a bonus for careful shots. And even the varied level names and themes raise a smile, such as ‘So Long, Space Shuttle’ (blowing NASA’s finest to bits) and ‘Victorians Got Here’, with its steampunk space stations.

No Stick Shooter ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Mobile gaming’s early days featured all manner of straightforward shooters that had you desperately fending off hordes of aggressors coming from above. No Stick Shooter recalls Space Invaders, in enemies heading downwards towards your defenses, but also Missile Command, in that your weapon’s rooted to the spot, and success depends on precision shooting.

However, unlike those games, No Stick Shooter is a resolutely modern affair. On selecting a weapon, shots are unleashed by tapping the display. For a very brief period, this is quite a leisurely process, picking off asteroids.

But the game soon bares its teeth, flinging all manner of neon foes your way, which must be defeated by deft fingerwork and tactical weapon selection, including crackling lightning and gigantic red laser beams.

On an iPhone this is a terrible game because it’s too fiddly; but on an iPad, No Stick Shooter is a wonderful, vibrant, thrilling shoot ’em up that’s not to be missed.

Steredenn ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Steredenn is an endless horizontal shooter, infused with the beating heart of the best retro blasters around, topped off with a head-nodding guitar-laden soundtrack.

Unlike most games of its ilk, it works brilliantly on iPad. The responsive controls have you drag the left of the screen to move your ship, and tap the right to fire at incoming waves of enemies. A flick of your right thumb switches weapons, and if your ship darts beneath a digit, crosshairs pinpoint its position.

And you’ll need that knowledge at all times, because enemies come thick and fast in all their chunky-pixel glory. But so too do power-ups – and learning the effectiveness of weapons against specific opponents boosts your long(er)-term survival.

Well, that and sometimes bolting a massive whirling saw blade to your ship, like some kind of space lunatic. It’s superb, raucous, shooty fun.

Death Road to Canada ($13.99/£13.99/AU$21.99)

Zombies have taken over the USA, and so it’s road trip time in Death Road to Canada, the aim being to flee to the safety of the land of the moose. The tiny snag: the aforementioned zombies, and the fact you start out in Florida.

The game itself is an action-oriented role-playing title, switching between top-down shooting/scavenging scenes, choose-your-own-adventure text sections, and claustrophobic and downright terrifying sieges that lock you for a set time in a confined space with hundreds of the undead.

Actually, it’s not that terrifying, given that Death Road to Canada looks like a game from the 1990s. But it is excellent fun, despite some slightly slippy virtual controls. (If you’ve an Made for iPhone controller, use that to boost your zombie-killing prowess.)

Darkside ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

In the inky blackness of space, humans have started mining massive space rocks, and it turns out aliens have a big problem with that.

Enter: the hero of Darkside, who has to blow up said aliens and, for some reason, all the rocks the humans are supposed to be mining. Videogame logic!

It all comes across like someone gleefully mashed together two classic arcade titles – Asteroids (shoot rocks until they’re tiny enough to obliterate) and Robotron (the original twin-stick shooter) – and wrapped the result around beautifully rendered planetoids.

Although there’s a free version, splash out for the paid release and you get smart bombs in the arcade mode, and two extra modes to try: one being mission-based, and the other being a tough endless mode for cocky veterans.

The end result is tons of shooty fun that’s accessible enough for newcomers, but that provides a stern test for even the swiftest of trigger fingers.

Tanks! – Seek & Destroy ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

One of the earliest 3D games was Battlezone, a tank warfare title at the time so realistic the US military commissioned a version from Atari to train gunners. iOS tribute Vector Tanks was subsequently gunned down by Atari lawyers, but its DNA survives in Tanks! – Seek & Destroy.

Like Battlezone, Tanks pits you against an endless number of vector tanks, on a sparse battlefield. But this is a much faster, tougher game, with tilt-and-tap controls that put you more in mind of console racing games than a stodgy tank 'em up. The result is a relentlessly thrilling 3D shooter that marries the best of old-school smarts and modern mobile gaming.

AirAttack 2 ($0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49)

You get the feeling creators of classic vertically scrolling shooters would sit in front of AirAttack 2 in a daze, dumbfounded at what's possible on modern home-computing devices.

That's not down to the gameplay, though: like its predecessor, AirAttack 2 is a straightforward shooter – you're piloting a fighter in World War II, downing enemies while optionally yelling "tally ho" at an annoyingly loud volume.

But this World War II is decidedly different from the one that occurred in our reality: Germans own limitless squadrons and building-sized tanks (versus the Allies, seemingly relying on a single nutcase in a plane to win the war).

It's the jaw-dropping visuals that really dazzle, effortlessly displaying swarms of enemies to down, colossal bosses to defeat, and a destructible environment to take out your frustrations on. For the low price (not least given that there's no IAP whatsoever), it's an insane bargain.

Our favorite iPad extreme sports, soccer, tennis, golf, and management games.

Football Manager 2019 Touch ($19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99)

Football Manager 2019 Touch brings the bulk of the famous PC game to your tablet. You take the reins of a real-world soccer club, and try to ensure they don’t get a kicking – all by way of your tactical savvy and cunning player transfers.

If you’ve not played before, this game has depth. It’s easy to feel swamped and overwhelmed as you work your way through the menus and options. But this is complexity married with friendliness – there’s some optional automation, and the overall experience feels more streamlined than the PC original.

The main niggle is there aren’t many changes from 2018’s release. If you own last year’s game, don’t put in for a transfer just yet; but if you’re new to Football Manager on iPad, there’s no more compelling soccer management to be found on an Apple device.

Desert Golfing ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Desert Golfing is about the most minimal take on golf imaginable. The side-on game gives you a tee and a hole to reach. You drag to aim and set power, and then take your shot. Smack your ball out of bounds and you start from scratch; make the hole with one or more shots and you can continue.

It feels never-ending, as you find yourself dozens and then hundreds of holes in, and it should get boring – but it really doesn’t. Your scorecard builds but ceases to have meaning as you relax into a hypnotic chill-out take on a sport that wasn’t exactly frenetic in the first place.

Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Motorsport Manager Mobile 3 is a racing game that has you holding the purse strings rather than the steering wheel. So instead of coaxing your car around complex turns, and blasting along straights, you manage your drivers (and their egos), plan HQ and car upgrades, and figure out when during races they should push their engines or change their tires.

The game’s sense of balance is very smart. It’s immediate and intuitive enough for newcomers, with a gentle first season, but gradually unlocks complexity, depth, and challenge to make you stick around for the long term.

And although races merely feature colored discs whizzing round diorama-like circuits, they are nonetheless tense, exciting affairs – not least when one of your drivers is vying for a podium finish.

Super Stickman Golf 3 (free + IAP)

If you find golf a bit dull, Super Stickman Golf 3 offers a decidedly different take on the sport. Instead of rolling greens, a sprinkling of trees and the odd sandpit, golfers in this bizarre world pit their wits against gravity-free space-stations, floating islands, and dank caverns with glue-like surfaces.

The game's side-on charms echo Angry Birds in its artillery core, in the sense that careful aiming is the order of the day. But this is a far smarter and more polished title, with some excellent and imaginative level design.

With this third entry, you also get the chance to spin the ball, opening up the possibility of otherwise impossible shots. And once you're done with the solo mode, you can go online with asynchronous turn-based play and frenetic live races.

Table Tennis Touch (free + IAP)

Table Tennis Touch brings ping pong to your iPad in glorious fashion. You get a set of training mini-games, to hone your aim and power, after which point you can delve into a full career mode.

Matches involve you taking on a levitating bat rather than an actual person on the other side of the table. The places in which you play, though, are beautifully rendered, although your focus will mostly be on the tiny white ball being belted around as you smash and spin your way to the big leagues.

This aspect of the game feels the part, capturing the speed and intensity of a properly gripping ping pong rally – and all without those moments where you subsequently step on and crush the ball like an idiot.

Touchgrind Skate 2 ($6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99)

Touchgrind Skate 2 presumably had a development process that began with someone realizing fingers look like legs if you put a tiny skateboard underneath them. And that’s what you get here – a virtual board, which you control with two digits.

Although that might feel gimmicky, it’s intuitive. But don’t mistake Touchgrind Skate 2 for an arcade pushover. As you roam urban locations, tasked with performing gnarly stunts, you’ll wipe out – often.

What you must do is learn to master the board, and then slowly chain together tricks. Only then will you get enough points to unlock new parks. On iPad in particular, this works very well, the larger screen giving you space to breathe. And it’s a great example of touchscreen innovation and physical interaction — Touchgrind Skate 2 just wouldn't be the same with a gamepad.

Our favorite iPad card games, turn-based strategy titles, and digital board games.

Kingdom Rush: Vengeance ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Kingdom Rush: Vengeance is the latest iteration of the best tower-defense game on mobile. This time, you get to play bad guy Vez’nan – a wizard tired of getting repeatedly beaten, and determined to conquer the kingdom.

How conquest and tower defense align is hard to say, but it makes for a great game. As ever, you drop towers in pre-defined spots, unleash special powers, and send a mighty hero into the fray for ad hoc smashing.

Like other entries in the Kingdom Rush series, Vengeance looks great, is finely balanced, and keeps things interesting with new surprises. There is one bad surprise, though, in IAP stinking up the place a bit. However, have patience, learn from your mistakes, and avoid temptation, and you’ll find there’s no need to pay more – right through to Vez’nan’s final victory.

Twinfold ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

Twinfold is a procedurally generated dungeon-crawling survival game, masquerading as a sliding puzzler. Or perhaps the reverse. Anyway, it’s really very good, although it does have an awful lot going on.

The basic goal is to keep merging golden idols to increase their value, while simultaneously avoiding angry faces and/or smashing them into walls. Eat an idol and your XP and health go up, but then all the walls in the maze change, holes appear, and new enemies join the fray.

Twinfold is quite the juggling act, but one with a cleverly conceived mix of immediacy and depth. The basic concept is easy to grasp, but in order to master the game and have any chance of relatively long-term survival, you must figure out all its quirks. Doing so is well worth the effort.

Reigns: Game of Thrones ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Reigns: Game of Thrones marries a swipe-based card interface, kingdom management and a hit TV show. Taking the role of a claimant to the Iron Throne, you rule the Seven Kingdoms with a single digit. Swipe left or right to respond to what’s asked of you, and your fortunes with the bank, people, army and church shift and change accordingly. Fail to balance them, and you’ll be brutally killed.

Given that Reigns: Game of Thrones was designed for one-thumb play on a phone, it’s interesting to discover that it’s excellent on iPad. Instead of a blown-up iPhone interface, you instead get a visually arresting ‘widescreen’ take; and the game’s surprising depth makes it suitable for longer gaming sessions while you’re sitting on your own iron throne (or, if you prefer, a nice comfy chair).

Euclidean Skies ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Euclidean Skies is the follow-up to the superb Euclidean Lands, a turn-based strategy game that takes place on floating constructions akin to Rubik’s Cubes. In that title, manipulating the landscape is as important as the physical moves the protagonist makes – and that’s even more overt in this sequel.

In Euclidean Skies, each individual ‘block’ within the landscape has the potential to be spun about any axis. This provides scope for brain-bendingly complex solutions, whether battling a gigantic monster by obliterating its spine with rotating chunks of land, or gradually unraveling what was once a flat surface, creating ‘arms’ to prod switches and fashion bridges to doors.

This isn’t an easy game, but it is hugely satisfying when you crack one of its puzzles. And, like the original, it also feels unique, which alone makes it worthy of consideration.

FTL: Faster Than Light ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

FTL: Faster Than Light is a real-time strategy game that finds you hurtling through space, trying to get essential data to the safety of the federation. Unfortunately, you’re being pursued by shooty rebels, and so must keep jumping to new sectors.

Every time you do, surprises await – you might make some cash, or end up in a frantic scrap with pirates. During action scenes, you direct your crew to make repairs, and fling explosives and lasers in your enemy’s general direction. At any point, you can pause to take a breather and strategize a bit.

The game is procedurally generated, and so every mission is different. But there are some constants: pitch-perfect controls, a sense of immersion, and palpable tension when half your ship’s on fire but you know one carefully aimed shot will obliterate your foe.

Infinite West (free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP)

Infinite West casts you as a cowboy in the wilderness, taking down a gang that murdered his family. That hackneyed scenario might put you in mind of a shoot ’em up, and so it’s a surprise to find Infinite West is more like chess – only with pieces shooting each other.

The turn-based play across semi-randomized levels forces you to consider every action. Your gunslinger can only move one space horizontally or vertically at a time, and each foe has unique weaponry ranges. Further complexity comes from a health counter, a ‘dash’ power and an ongoing upgrades system.

There are echoes of Square Enix’s GO games, but if anything Infinite West has more depth and brains. You’ll certainly need your wits about you when, many levels into a mission, you suddenly find yourself faced with a dozen gang members intent on your untimely demise.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI (free + $59.99/£54.99/AU$89.99 IAP)

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI properly showcases the iPad’s potential as a gaming device. Previous takes on Civilization for iPad have been weirdly cartoonish and simplified. Not Civilization VI – this is the game you get on PC, with all its inherent depth and complexity.

This means you get one of the finest 4X (eXplore; eXpand; eXploit; eXterminate) games around. You aim to make your civilization dominant by becoming a trading giant, heading to the stars, or getting all stabby/shooty until no-one else is left standing.

The game demands time and attention, is hugely rewarding, and should keep you going for months. Just as well, given its price tag. Still, you get 60 moves for free, and ‘proper’ games cost real money.

Bar some slightly blurry visuals on iPad Pro, this is the real deal – one of the best games in existence, carefully optimized for the touchscreen.

Freeways ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Freeways explores interchange design for autonomous vehicles, which sounds deathly dull. It isn’t. Just as Mini Metro coaxed something gorgeous and essential from underground railway maps, so too does Freeways create a hugely entertaining game from the drudgery of urban planning.

Each map sector provides you with highways that must be connected to each other. Hold a sign and you get an idea of traffic flow and the links you must make. You then scribble roads down, adding overpasses and increasingly complex routes when the realization dawns about how tough this task can be.

The drawing tools and visuals are crude, and there’s no undo – mess up and you must start that particular section of the map from scratch. But the underlying gameplay is enthralling, not least when you tap ‘simulate’ to watch your layout’s traffic move in fast forward, hoping to avoid a dreaded traffic jam.

Card Thief ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

It takes quite a lot to make a solitaire game tense, but Card Thief manages, mostly by smashing dealing out cards into turn-based stealth-oriented puzzling.

As the titular villain, you map out pathways across the cards on the screen, figuring out how to grab loot without losing too many stealth points, which are depleted on battling adversaries.

Repeat play is rewarded by improving your strategies, unlocking new kit to help increase your score, and eventually finding your way to new missions with different foes.

Like any take on solitaire, Card Thief does get a bit repetitive, but this is also a game you’ll be able to happily play a round of a day for many weeks, gradually improving your ability to sneak about and become a master pickpocket.

Concrete Jungle ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Most city building games are about micro-management – juggling budgets, people’s demands, and limited space. But Concrete Jungle rethinks the genre as a brilliant brain-bending puzzler. And here, restrictions regarding where you can build are of paramount importance.

At any point, you have seven rows with six lots where you can place a building. Said buildings are served semi-randomly from a card deck. Each column needs to have enough housing points for it to vanish and unlock more space on which to build. The snag: other buildings boost or reduce the points allocated to adjacent lots.

You must therefore take great care to place your factories (bad) and parks (good), realizing that any complacency may be severely punished several moves down the line, when you suddenly find yourself faced with a slum of your own making.

Mini Metro ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Traveling on underground railways can be a fairly hideous experience, which is perhaps why Mini Metro is such a pleasant surprise. The game is all about designing and managing a subway, using an interface akin to a minimal take on the schematics usually found hanging on subway walls. And it’s glorious.

Periodically, new stations appear. You drag lines between them, and position trains on them, in order to shepherd passengers to their stops. All the while, movement generates a hypnotic, ambient soundtrack.

Over time, things admittedly become more fraught than during these relaxing beginnings. The demands of an increasing number of passengers forces you to juggle trains and rearrange lines until you’re inevitably overwhelmed. But the nature of the game is such that this never frustrates – instead, you’ll want to take another journey – hugely unlike when suffering the real thing.

Solitairica ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)

RPG combat games usually involve doddering about dungeons with a massive stick, walloping goblins. But in Solitairica, cards are your weapon; or, more accurately, cards are the means by which you come by weapons.

Your aim is to trudge to a castle, defeating enemies along the way. You do so in a simplified solitaire, where you string together combos by removing cards one higher or lower than your current card. Doing so collects energies used to unleash defensive or offensive spells.

Unfortunately, your enemies also have skills, and survival requires a mix of luck and planning to defeat them.

This involves managing your inventory so you're always armed with the best capabilities, while probably simultaneously wondering why the hero didn't arm themselves with a bloody great sword rather than a deck of cards.

Exploding Kittens ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

High-octane card games don’t seem the greatest fit for iPad gaming, but Exploding Kittens perfectly captures the manic chaos of the Oatmeal-illustrated original. As per that version, this is Russian roulette with detonating cats.

Players take turns to grab a card, and if they get an exploding kitten, they must defuse it or very abruptly find themselves out of the game.

Strategy comes by way of action cards, which enable you to peek at the deck, skip a turn, steal cards from an opponent, and draw from the bottom of the deck “like the baby you are”.

Local and online multiplayer is supported, timers stop people from dawdling, and a ‘chance of kitten’ meter helps everyone keep track of the odds. Large hands of cards rather irritatingly require quite a bit of swiping to peruse (although cards can be reordered), but otherwise this is first-rate and amusingly deranged multiplayer mayhem.

Warbits ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

Nintendo fans probably wonder why the big N hasn't yet brought the superb Advance Wars to iPad, but Warbits now scratches that particular itch. However, although Warbits is influenced by Nintendo's turn-based strategy title, it isn't a copy — the iOS game brings plenty of new thinking to the table and is very much optimised for the iPad.

Working with 16 varied units, you conquer a series of battlefields by directing your troops, making careful note of your strengths and the enemy's relevant weaknesses. All the while, Warbits merrily has you and your opponent trading barbs, often about subjects such as whether tomatoes are fruit, because that's the kind of thing you'd go to war over.

Finish the 20-mission campaign and you'll have a decent grasp of Warbits, and can then venture online to take on other human players across dozens of different maps. With superb visuals, enough new ideas over the game that inspired it, and a single one-off price-tag, Warbits is a must-buy for any iPad-owning strategy nut.

Hitman GO ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)

It's great to see Square Enix do something entirely different with Hitman GO, rather than simply converting its free-roaming 3D game to touchscreens. Although still echoing the original series, this touchscreen title is presented as a board game of sorts, with turn-based actions against clockwork opposition.

You must figure out your way to the prize, without getting knocked off (the board). It's an oddly adorable take on assassination, and one of the best iOS puzzlers. There's also extra replay value in the various challenges (such as grabbing a briefcase or not killing guards), each of which requires an alternate solution to be found.

Rome: Total War ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99)

Rome: Total War revamps a much-loved and genre-defining strategy classic for your iPad. You start the game as one of six factions, aiming to throttle enemies and conquer the known world. To succeed, you must wield your tactical brain, as well as demonstrating diplomatic and fighting skills.

You might wonder whether complex battle simulators can really shine on iPad, but creators Feral Interactive fully optimized the game for touch. And there’s something special about freeing yourself from sitting in front of a PC, and instead peering at a 3D battlefield with thousands of units, all while curled up on the sofa.

Our favorite iPad games that have you battle with crosswords, anagrams, and letters.

Sidewords ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

Each puzzle in Sidewords starts with an empty grid that has words along its top and left edges. You select letters from both to create new words. Each chosen letter shoots a line into the grid, and the squares where those lines meet become solid blocks, which display the words you’ve created.

The idea is to fill in every square on the grid. This is easier said than done – you might consider yourself a genius on finding a massive, extremely clever word, but later find your grid peppered with tiny gaps. Completed words can be removed with a tap at any point, Sidewords clearly wanting you to experiment and try new things on your way to a solution.

It’s a great concept – immediate, fresh, and also very challenging when you start tackling larger grids.

Supertype ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Supertype is a strange word game, in that it’s primarily interested in the physical form of letters and how they interact in animated 2D environments. Each puzzle tasks you with using the letters to collide with dots that are littered about – you type some characters, press the tick mark, and watch as everything starts to move.

One puzzle has a dot up some stairs, and is easily dealt with by placing a lowercase l on each step, and a p to knock them all down. Elsewhere, you use letters to swing from the scenery like tiny action heroes, or roundish characters that rain down like a typographic avalanche. It’s great stuff – imaginative, original, and definitely not yet another Scrabble clone!

SpellTower ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

There’s something gleefully classic about SpellTower. It marries very old-school word games – in the sense of paper-based crosswords and word searches – with much-loved arcade puzzlers. The result is the best word game on iOS.

Tower mode has you face a stack of letters, tapping out snaking words that disappear when submitted, the tiles above then falling into the gaps. A keen sense of planning is required to balance letter stacks and ensure tiles aren’t left stranded.

Additional modes soon open up: Puzzle adds a new row of letters for every word you submit; Rush throws in a timer; and Debate pits two players against each other. iPad Pro owners also get Super Tower mode, offering a colossal 432 tiles and the potential for blockbuster scores – if you can find the right words lurking within the jumble.

Puzzlejuice ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)

Puzzlejuice shoves Tetris and SpellTower into a blender, adds a load of power-ups, and leaves you – the somewhat bewildered player – to make sense of the chaos. It’s entirely appropriate that the game states it will “punch your brain in the face”.

It starts with The Tetris bit, falling blocks being used to create lines. But complete lines don’t vanish – they turn into letters. Tapping blocks of color gets you further letter tiles. You then find words snaking through the jumble to submit, freeing up room for new shapes falling into the well.

On iPhone, it’s all a bit too fiddly to be fun; but the iPad’s extra acres transform Puzzlejuice into an entertaining and quirky genre mash-up.

Scrabble Premium ($9.99/£6.99/AU$10.99)

Scrabble Premium [US store] | [non-US stores] is the famous word game on your Apple tablet. You and your opponents use dished out letters to gradually build a crossword. Cleverly utilizing a combination of show-off big words and/or score-boosting board tiles will have you zoom ahead of opponents, who’ll hate you for repeatedly placing the Q in qi on a triple letter tile.

On the iPad, the game works nicely, displaying the complete board without scrolling, and at a finger-friendly size. It includes a dictionary, and chat for when playing human opponents. Computer players exist, too, although they do love using bafflingly obscure words – and chastising you when you fail to do the same, which isn’t very congenial (12 points).

AlphaPit ($2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49)

AlphaPit is a cleverly designed word game based around grids of letters. The aim is to remove them all. The snag is that the letters are jumbled up, and you must therefore strategically remove words, otherwise you can end up with tiny islands of characters that are impossible to use.

Fortunately, the game provides you with special powers to ease your progress: you can shuffle letters, undo an error, or merrily blow up a tile that’s getting in your way. But the smartest bit about the game is when you realize these are all hand-crafted puzzles. AlphaPit isn’t random – it’s all about you finding the best solution for any given problem.

Typeshift (free + IAP)

Typeshift at its core is a mix of traditional word games that you might find in a newspaper – crosswords; anagrams; word searches. But this is all presented on your iPad in an ultra-modern mix of minimal visuals and swish tactile gameplay.

The basic idea is to slide columns of letters up and down, to make complete words in the central row. Do this and the letter tiles change color. Change them all to complete a puzzle – unless you’re playing one that also requires you to match completed words to crossword clues.

Each puzzle is hand-crafted, and they’re sold in sets. But even if you don’t fancy splashing out too often, TypeShift gives you a new puzzle every day. Either way, it’s a must-install.

from TechRadar – All the latest technology news http://www.techradar.com/news/the-best-ipad-games-in-2019

The best iPhone apps we’ve used in 2019

Apps are the cornerstone of the iPhone – what really set it apart from Android. The best iPhone apps are typically best in class.

However, finding the greatest apps among the millions available isn’t easy, and so we’ve done the hard work for you. 

Our lists compile the very best the iPhone has to offer, whether using your iPhone for photos, video, drawing, music, office tasks, reading, maps, weather forecasts or keeping kids entertained.

This round-up compiles our favourites, from top-quality creative tools and video editors to the finest productivity kit and social networking clients.

In addition to our ongoing list of the absolute best, every week we're adding our picks for the latest and greatest new or updated apps, so check back often.

Even if you don't have an iPhone right now, it's worth reading up on what's available if you're considering investing in the iPhone XS or even one of the older models (if you need more info, check out our list of the best iPhones) – but note that some of these titles will only work with models from iPhone 5S and later.

Read on below for our free app pick of the week then click through to the following pages for the best iPhone apps across a range of categories.

iPhone app of the week: Imaengine Vector

  • Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99

Imaengine Vector is a camera app/photo editor. Take a shot – a selfie, your lunch, or an amazing landscape – or load an image, and it’s turned into a vector drawing. That in itself perhaps isn’t anything special, but what else the app does very much is.

First and foremost, some of the predefined filters are spectacular. Even the dullest of pics when fed through this app can end up looking like art. The settings can be tweaked, too, including detail levels, colors, and line thickness. If that’s not enough, tap the Editor button and you end up in a full-fledged vector graphics editor.

The interface is a bit messy on iPhone, and the editing section might baffle. But even for the filters, it’s worth the outlay, and for illustrators happy to tweak the app’s output, it’s a bargain.

Best iPhone photo editing and camera apps

These are our favorite iPhone apps for editing snaps, capturing photos and video and applying the filters that actually make things look good.

Glitch Art Studio

  • Free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 IAP

Glitch Art Studio is an impressive and arresting photo effects app that brings texture and character to even the most mundane snap. This is achieved by way of slathering on all kinds of distortion effects, up to the point where you’re left with something that’s barely recognizable as a photograph.

We’re not kidding. The first few presets (available in the free app) give you an indication of what’s in store, making videos and stills alike look as if they’re being displayed on an ancient, very broken television. But further filters come across like you’re stuck inside a kaleidoscope or are having a full-on hallucinogenic episode.

If the presets don’t do it for you, you can make custom ones by working with a slew of settings; and when done, you can output your eye-popping miniature masterpieces as stills or videos. 

Visionist

  • Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Visionist uses neural networks to ape various types of artwork. Load a photo and it’s instantly reworked as a virtual painting that resembles something expensive you’d find hanging on a gallery wall.

Pay for the IAP and you get 70 styles (10 come for free). They could do with being grouped and labeled, but you do at least get control over how they’re applied: each style offers three levels of abstraction; and there are settings for how it interacts with the original imagery.

Additionally, modern iPhone owners can play with depth – Portrait shots get further options for refinement, and depth data is preserved for the likes of Facebook 3D photos. Canvas prints and high-res exports cement Visionist as more than just another arty filters app.

Camera+

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Camera+ is a combined camera and editor. Despite the wealth of available options, the interface is initially quite minimal, with a modes strip across the top of the screen, a zoom slider, and the shutter. But tap the + button and you reveal further modes, including a timer, a stabilizer and smile detection.

Similarly, tap the viewfinder area and Camera+ enters a ‘pro’ mode, with manual controls, and scene options for shooting under specific lighting conditions. The interface is finicky compared to Obscura 2, but Camera+ is undoubtedly powerful.

Post-shooting, you can edit with adjustment tools, filters, and frames in the Lightbox. This all comes across as impressively friendly and straightforward, and although the range of tools doesn’t compare to Snapseed’s, it’s enough to keep you within the one app for the most part.

Oilist

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Oilist is a generational art app. You feed it something from Photos, choose a style, and it gets to work, continually repainting your image. It’s like someone’s trapped a tiny van Gogh in your iPhone.

In fact, it’s like a slew of artists are stuck in your device, because Oilist has a massive range of styles to choose from, taking in everything from classic oil painters through to modern art. Although the app can be left alone in a dock, you can capture stills for posterity, or fiddle with settings (including brush strokes, mood, ‘chaos’ and gravity) to redirect the virtual artist.

Whether you interact or just sit back and watch, Oilist is mesmerizing – kind of like a painterly lava lamp, only what you see is based on one of your own cherished photographs.

Snapseed

  • Free

Snapseed is a free photo editor with a feature set that rivals the very best premium apps. It’s geared towards users of any level, from those who fancy applying quick filters to anyone who wants to dig deep into adjustments and powerful editing tools.

The range of options is dazzling, and the interface is smartly conceived. You can crop, make adjustments, and edit curves, all with a few swipes and taps. Often, vertical drags select parameters, and horizontal drags define an effect’s strength – tactile and intuitive. Even better, edits are non-destructive, and can be removed or changed at any point by accessing them in the edits stack.

As a final sign off, the app enables you to save any combination of adjustments as a custom preset, which you can then apply to any image in the future with a single tap. Superb stuff.

Obscura 2

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Obscura 2 is the best manual camera app for iPhone. It achieves this not with a slew of features, but by providing an interaction model that’s so brilliantly conceived that you simply won’t want to use another iPhone camera.

Echoing manual cameras of old, everything is based around a contextual wheel that sits above the shutter. Initially, you use it to select a tool. When setting focus or exposure, the wheel enables you to make fine adjustments with your thumb. You get a real feel of precision control, with optional haptic feedback confirming your choices.

The app makes the odd concession to modern photography trends with a range of filters, but mostly Obscura 2 wants you to think a little more about what you’re snapping, all while breathing in its minimal yet approachable and deeply pleasing design.

Filmborn

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Filmborn is an app for camera obsessives – for those who revel in the joys of film, but come away unimpressed with apps that present an over-saturated, overblown take on old-school photography.

The interface is icon-heavy, but gives you fast access to tools that will improve your photography. There’s manual focusing, a range of grid overlays, and a blown highlights preview that outlines problematic areas of a potential snap.

The film filters will appeal to fans of real-world stock, subtly transforming images in a manner that’s pleasingly realistic. Filmborn even educates you regarding when’s best to use each one. The app also includes basic editing functionality, although a key tool – curves – frustratingly sits behind IAP.

Despite that niggle, Filmborn is well worth checking out if you fancy fusing photography’s past with its present.

Retrospecs

  • Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Retrospecs is a camera app that wants you to see the world as if it was being rendered by ancient computing and gaming hardware. Load a photo – or take one using the app – and you can select from a wide range of systems, such as the Game Boy, Commodore 64, and original Mac.

But this isn’t just a single-tap filter app for aficionados of pixel art. You can adjust dither, image corruption, and virtual CRT distortion. You get animation effects and video support. And should you get fed up with the included emulated systems, you can even make your own.

So whether you believe all your photos should look like an eight-bit video game or want to add a crazy glitch sequence to your next YouTube video, Retrospecs fits the bill perfectly.

Halide

  • $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99

Halide wants you to focus on deliberate, thoughtful photography. Its creator has remarked that many camera apps now have interfaces like airplane cockpits, and Halide was stripped back accordingly.

That’s not to say Halide is bereft of features, but those it has are all about taking better photos. You can adjust focus and exposure manually, and use ‘focus peaking’ to highlight areas of sharp contrast within the frame, and the grid overlay’s central rectangle turns yellow when your phone is held straight.

If you have a modern iPhone, Halide offers a groundbreaking depth mode with ‘depth peaking’ and a depth map preview. You can also view portrait photos in augmented reality.

The net result of all this is a premium camera app that feels like a professional tool – money well spent if your idea of photography isn’t based around filters and stickers.

Afterlight 2

  • $2.99/£2.99/$4.49

Afterlight 2 is a powerful photo editor for your iPhone. All the basics are there, including one-tap filters, cropping, and brightness/contrast sliders. Itls more professional features allow you to manipulate curves, selective hue/saturation/tone controls, filter editing, and a double exposure tool for Lomography fiends.

A highlight, though, is the text tool. It’s a cinch to add words to your pictures, and fine-tune everything with custom leading, kerning, and erasing. In fact, the entire interface feels very considered – there’s a lot going on in this app, but it remains approachable throughout.

One misstep is that edits are destructive – although there’s unlimited undo, you can’t remove a specific step unless you eradicate all the work you did afterwards. Otherwise, this is an excellent app, and one that wisely doesn’t mess about with subscriptions and IAPs – even additional pro-designed filter packs are free.

Pic Collage

  • Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP

Pic Collage offers ways to quickly turn some photos into something special, and the best mode is Grids. You select some images, which Pic Collage automatically drops into a grid layout. If you’re not keen on what you get, you can choose something different, add a background, or manually fiddle with the dividers.

Double-tap an individual image and you get further tools, including an ‘effects’ area that’s not far off a fully-fledged photo editor. You can add stickers and text to your masterpiece, and even doodle over the top of everything. If you fancy something more structured, the Cards mode offers predefined card layouts, and Freestyle lets you go entirely freeform.

Everything can be tried entirely for free, but exports have watermarks. Be rid of those for a one-off IAP that’s very much value for money.

ProCam 5

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

ProCam 5 is an iPhone camera app with a lot of options. Not one for minimalists, then, but the app’s design is such that while it could have drowned you in a bewildering array of options, it actually ends up being very usable.

The main camera shoots to RAW, TIFF or JPEG, and optionally shoots HDR. There are several modes (burst, night, slow shutter, and so on), and you can manually tweak ISO, exposure, shutter speed, and focus.

Usefully, you can also opt to shoot only when your iPhone is perfectly still; and there are handy visual guides, too, including a focus peak meter, a grid of thirds, and a tilt meter.

When you’re finished shooting, you can delve into a capable editor for trimming, perspective correction, frame-by-frame video clip review, and the application of lenses and filters. It’s very comprehensive, making for a high-value package.

MaxCurve

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

MaxCurve is a photo editor aimed at people who want more control over adjustments. The app includes the basics – cropping; vignettes; sharpness; grain – but its real power is in the curve tools that afford a huge amount of control over color, lightness, saturation, and other aspects of your photo.

The approach is very different from most of MaxCurve’s contemporaries, and, notably, the curves take up a lot of room, sitting in front of the image you’re editing. But they do provide a very tactile means of making everything from subtle tweaks to dramatic changes.

These effects are all non-destructive, too, applied as layers, to which you can also add colors (with blend modes) and textures. Bar its slightly cluttered interface, the only real problem with MaxCurve is it can be a bit too clever – there are no quick-fix buttons for things like exposure. But perhaps that’s the point.

Mextures

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Modern iPhones have some seriously impressive camera hardware, and are capable of taking clean, vibrant shots. So it’s perhaps no surprise that iPhone users are often hell-bent on slathering said images in filters and messing them up.

Mextures is a decidedly extreme example, providing a theoretically unlimited number of layers to play with, each of which can have some kind of effect applied. These include grit, grain, light leaks, gradients, and more.

Because each layer can be fine-tuned in terms of opacity and blend mode, you can get anything from subtle film textures to seriously eye-popping grunge effects.

Hit upon something particularly amazing and you can share your ‘formulas’ with other people. Or if you’re in need of a quick fix, you can grab something that’s already online to overhaul your snaps.

Hipstamatic

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

There are two sides to Hipstamatic. In its ‘native’ form, the app apes old-school point-and-click cameras. You get a tiny viewport inside a virtual plastic camera body, and can swap out lenses, film, and flashes, along with messing about with multiple exposures and manual shutters. It’s pleasingly tactile and twangs your nostalgia gland, but feels a bit cramped.

If you’d rather use your entire iPhone display to show what you’re snapping, you can switch to a ‘pro’ camera mode. That’s closer in nature to Apple’s own Camera, but with Hipstamatic’s huge range of rather lovely filters bolted on – a great mash-up of old and new.

And if you’re wedded to Apple’s camera, Hipstamatic’s still worth a download, given that you can load a photo, slather it in filters, add loads of effects and bask in your creative genius. 

SoSoCamera

  • $0.99/99p/AU$1.49

Apple offers a burst mode when you hold down the shutter in its camera app, but this is for very rapidly taking many shots in quick succession, in order to select the best one.

By contrast, SoSoCamera is about documenting a lengthier slice of time, taking a series of photos over several seconds and then stitching them together in a grid.

The grid's size maxes out at 48 items and can be fashioned however you like. It's then just a question of selecting a filter, prodding the camera button, and letting SoSoCamera perform its magic.

The resulting images, while low-res in nature, nicely capture the feel of time passing, in many cases better than video; although do experiment first with the filters, because some are a bit too eye-searing.

The best animation apps and video editors for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for editing and creating videos, GIFs, Live Photos and cinemagraphs.

8mm Vintage Camera

  • US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

8mm Vintage Camera is an app dedicated to shooting authentic retro films. In other words, it transforms your otherwise pristine iPhone videos into something that could have been shot anywhere from the 1970s back to the 1920s.

This is more than a basic filters app, though. When shooting live, you get to see the effect, can swap out lenses to add spotlights, color fringing and other effects, and can even add jitter to imitate frame shakes.

Polishing off a superb app are features for working with existing video (which you ‘record’ into 8mm, in a manner similar to Apple’s Clips), and stitching together multiple shots, complete with titles and music. You get a couple of themes included in the purchase price, and several more are available via IAP.

nception

  • US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

nception is a photo/video reality-bender of the opinion that everything looks interesting when you start mucking about with mirrors. It provides over 20 symmetric reflection presets, some carving the screen in half, and others being a mite more complicated.

You can shoot live stills or footage, and import existing content. When working with either, there are color filters to overlay; and with video, it’s possible to adjust the frame rate and speed. So if you want some slo-mo (rather than just standard speed) weirdness, that’s just a couple of taps away.

Naturally, nception isn’t the kind of filter app that you’ll wheel out for every occasion, but it’s great for experimenting with, and getting some weirdness into photos, especially when exploring cities and wanting to capture a unique take on local architecture.

Stop Motion Studio Pro

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$8.99

Stop Motion Studio Pro is designed for people patient enough to craft stop-motion masterpieces. It’s a friendly app, but flexible too. You can shoot in-app to add new frames, add existing images from your iPhone, or import video, which is converted to a string of stills.

The editor is powerful: you can copy and paste frames; a Painter mode offers text, shapes and backgrounds; you can create custom titles; and it’s possible to import audio. Playback of audio is intelligent, continuing until completion (rather than just the end of the frame), allowing multiple effects to be overlaid.

The app overreaches with talk of rotoscoping – drawing over frames in the stype of A Scanner Darkly – but for everything else, this is ideal fodder for taking your first steps towards becoming the next Aardman or Ray Harryhausen.

Motion Stills

  • Free

Motion Stills is all about making the most of Live Photos you shoot on your iPhone, whether simply browsing them, or transforming them into something to share online.

The main feed is worth the download alone, bringing your photos to life as you scroll, without the need for further interaction. Motion Stills also applies stabilization, removing wobble from your pics.

Beyond this, Motion Stills offers a range of creative tools. You can make grid-like collages from Live Photos, overlay text and emoji, or with a few swipes turn a selection of Live Photos into a shareable movie. This is all far beyond what Apple lets you do in the Photos app, and an astonishingly good product for no outlay whatsoever.

Cinegraph

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Cinegraph is about using existing videos (or Live Photos) to create images that move. Areas selected by the user animate in an endless loop while the rest of the image remains static – a beguiling effect.

The selection of tools is small, but focused on the task at hand: basic adjustment options for your image, brush/overlay settings for outlining the part(s) of your image that will move, and the means to fine-tune the video output, for example to crossfade the end of the loop.

There’s no automated stabilization, which is a pity – you’re effectively restricted to videos or stills shot using a tripod with no wobble whatsoever. But with the right starting point, Cinegraph is capable of fashioning little slices of magic. And unlike much of the competition, there’s no messing about with subscriptions or IAP for ongoing use or removing watermarks.

ImgPlay

  • Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP

A playground for GIFs, ImgPlay aims to bring life to whatever you capture with your iPhone – or to fine-tune the motion within those things that already move.

You start off by loading pretty much anything from your Camera Roll: photos, videos, Burst mode images, Live Photos, or GIFs. With stills, you can select a number of them to stitch together, essentially making ImgPlay a kind of low-end stop-motion tool.

But it’s with Live Photos and Burst shots that ImgPlay really becomes interesting. You can take the video or sequence of images your iPhone shoots, trim the result (including removing individual frames), add a filter and text, and then export the lot as a GIF or video.

For free, the app’s full-featured, but buy the small IAP and you get more filters, no ads, and no watermark on export.

Burstio

  • $0.99/99p/AU$1.49

The burst mode in Apple's camera app is designed to get you the perfect photo in tricky situations. If you've a fast-moving subject – or are snapping someone who blinks a lot – you hold the shutter, very rapidly take loads of photos, and later select the best.

But in capturing anything up to dozens of photos, there's potential to do something with those you'd usually discard. Burstio is all about turning such images into animations.

Launch the app and you see your burst photos as little film strips, each detailing the number of images within. Select a burst and you can trim the series, adjust playback speed, and alter playback direction.

Your edit can then be exported to video or GIF. The process is elegant and simple, and brings new life to images you'd otherwise never use.

The best art and design apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for painting, drawing, sketching, design and animation.

Linea Go

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Linea Go is designed to make sketching on iPhone effortless. It does this by way of a friendly, stripped-back interface – although one that doesn’t lack for features.

The base of your image can be a paper texture or a grid. Atop that you get five layers, offering great scope for complex compositions – or to isolate one component while drawing another.

When sketching, there’s a pencil and a few pens, a flood fill that can also be used for creating arbitrary blocked-in areas, and Zip Shapes. That last feature recognizes rough shapes you draw, and tidies them if you keep your finger pressed down. They can then be rotated, moved, and scaled.

Although the end results look a bit digital, Linea Go is elegant and efficient, and iCloud cross-device sync makes it a smart choice for iOS-based sketching.

Comic Life 3

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$8.99

Comic Life 3 is for creating comics from photos and other images on your iPhone. Although it works best on the bigger screen of an iPad, it’s surprisingly usable on an iPhone, not least due to the sheer speed at which you can put together a great page (or, if you’re feeling ambitious, a full multi-page book).

Much of this is down to the app’s varied templates, which get you up and running in no time. You can quickly import pictures into frames, add speech bubbles and sound effects, and then export the lot to a variety of different formats.

Oddly, the one thing the app does badly is comic-style filters – you’re better off using Prisma for that. But for making custom comics from doodles or photos of amazing days out, Comic Life 3 can’t be beaten.

Procreate Pocket

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Procreate Pocket is a great bet if you fancy dabbling in digital finger-painting. Whether you’re a novice scribbler or a jobbing artist, this app’s sleek interface wants to get out of your way and let you paint.

The toolbar that runs along the top of the display provides fast access to brushes. At the left of the screen are two sliders, for adjusting brush size and opacity. If you find them distracting, a four-finger tap puts you in full-screen mode, leaving you alone with your miniature masterpiece.

It all feels fluid and sleek, but there’s depth here too. A fantastic brush editor (including custom grain sources) unleashes all kinds of creativity, and the layers system provides scope for more advanced compositions. And when you get really good, you can share time-lapse recordings created automatically by Procreate Pocket, and await glory when a TV network comes calling.

Moji Maker

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Moji Maker is a construction kit for emoji. Because, as everyone knows, there can never be enough emoji in the world. On opening the app, you can tap Random to see what it comes up with, or begin with a clean slate. Loads of shapes are available, to which you add facial features, hats, and hands – everything from bushy beards to bizarre sci-fi shades.

As each element is added, you can pinch and drag to adjust its size and orientation. There’s also a deeper – if slightly fiddly – Adjust screen for flipping elements and changing their position in the stack.

When you’re done, you can save your creation for later use, either through Moji Maker’s Messages app or keyboard extension, or by sharing oversized portraits that should certainly get a friend’s attention. Or make them think giant emoji have invaded and finally taken over.

Isometric

  • $0.99/99p/AU$1.99

What kind of art do you think you can make from the humble rhombus? That’s the challenge you face when working with Isometric, which is – as its name suggests – designed for creating isometric artwork.

The app is very simple to use – you tap a rhombus to add it to the canvas, and can tap existing ones to rotate them. Shapes can be dragged together to make larger groups, and elements on the canvas can be colored and styled.

Isometric is especially well suited to abstract geometric art, and proves relaxing to use when stressed about the world and its problems.

But with a little planning, you can coax it towards more realistic, ambitious fare. Either way, the canvas can expand to a whopping 2048 x 2048, and you can export your angular masterpieces to Photos – or to vector formats with an additional IAP.

Graphic

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

On the iPad, Graphic resembles a touchscreen take on desktop vector powerhouse Adobe Illustrator. You might think you’d need to be mad to try and squeeze that into an iPhone, but Indeeo has succeeded in fine style.

The app, equally happy in portrait and landscape, is initially set up for vector-based sketching, with you scribbling freehand lines that can subsequently be tweaked and edited. Smartly, the app always lets you know what’s going on under your finger, because Graphic shows that area elsewhere on the screen while you draw.

Delve deeper and you’ll find a shape library, Bézier curves, a layers system and everything else you need to craft illustrations and logos on your iPhone. It can be a touch fiddly at times, but the powerful zoom and general friendliness, of what’s a hugely powerful mobile app, help immeasurably.

Pixure

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Head back to the 1980s and pixel art was just, well, art. Computer graphics were chunky due to technological limitations, not because of the aesthetic desires of creatives. Nonetheless, for a mix of reasons – nostalgia, primarily – pixel art remains popular in illustration and videogames.

On iPhone, Pixure is a great app for dabbling with pixel art. Along with prodding individual pixels using a pencil tool, there’s a neat flood fill option and shape tools too. Layers provide scope for more complex art, as does the option to import an image from elsewhere as a starting point.

There’s no lock-in either: you can export to a range of formats to share your miniature masterpiece, or work on it further elsewhere.

Pixelmator

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Photoshop is so ingrained in people's minds when it comes to image editing that it's become a verb. Oddly, though, Adobe's largely abandoned high-end mobile apps, choosing instead to create simpler 'accessories' for the iPhone and iPad, augmenting rather than aping its desktop products. Valiantly filling the void is Pixelmator, a feature-rich and truly astonishing mobile Photoshop.

It's packed full of tools and adjustment options, and works well whether you're into digital painting or creating multi-layered photographic masterpieces. On iPhone, Pixelmator's naturally a bit cramped compared to using the app on iPad, but at the price it remains an insanely great bargain.

The best entertainment apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for having fun with your iPhone, whether stargazing, reading, watching TV or checking out Twitter.

David Bowie is…

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

David Bowie is… reimagines a famous touring exhibition about a music industry icon as an augmented reality experience. You work your way through Bowie’s life story, exploring videos, costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other objects, which sit before you in a pseudo-3D desk-bound view.

Although less directly immersive than Shepard Fairey – Damaged, it’s arguably more accessible, simply due to Bowie’s infusion into popular culture. And although there are limitations on the smaller screen – the slight awkwardness of a letterbox view; costumes looking a bit like videogame character clothing – this is a fascinating glimpse into one of pop music’s most famous and influential artists.

Given the content lurking within, and its price tag being far less than a ticket to the original exhibition, it’s a must-buy for fans and the merely curious alike. 

Bloom: 10 Worlds

  • $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99

Bloom: 10 Worlds is the follow-up to 2008’s Bloom, in which you tapped the screen to play notes while dots of color emanated from your fingers like ripples in a pond. A decade later, 10 Worlds takes that app’s premise and expands out what was effectively a single into a full album.

You get 10 distinct playgrounds to experiment with. Their sounds are varied, as are their visual effects. Some slash lines horizontally and vertically across the screen, while others soak the canvas in watercolor curtains.

Whether you want to interact or just let 10 Worlds play itself (which it starts doing when left alone for a short while), this is an enchanting ambient audio experience that breathes new life into what was already an iOS classic. 

Tweetbot 5

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Tweetbot 5 is a premium Twitter client, and in an era when Twitter seems to be doing its level best to grind third-party clients into dust, it might seem an odd recommendation. However, hampered though it may be in some areas, Tweetbot remains highly recommended for people who want to free themselves from Twitter noise.

This is especially apparent when exploring timelines: everything’s in blissful reverse-chronological order; the Mentions tab isn’t cluttered with like and retweet notifications; and you can swap out a toolbar tab for fast access to user-defined lists.

In other words, despite not having access to all of Twitter’s toys, Tweetbot continues to offer the best iPhone Twitter experience for heavy users of the service – and anyone who prefers order over chaos. 

Shepard Fairey AR – Damaged

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Shepard Fairey AR – Damaged is essentially an art exhibit crammed into your iPhone – and in a rather more literal sense than you might expect. If the name Shepard Fairey doesn’t ring a bell, you’ll likely recognize his most famous work – the iconic ‘Hope’ image of Barack Obama. In Damaged, he tackles the current political climate in a similarly arresting manner.

As a viewer, the AR bit of the app’s name is important. This is no slideshow with written notes. Instead, the entire warehouse-sized show has been transformed into a virtual space you can explore with swipes and taps, or even by walking around yourself.

All the while, you can optionally take in Fairey’s narration, giving you extra context behind the work in what’s easily the best virtual art exhibit on the iPhone.

Infuse Pro 5

  • $14.99/£14.99/AU$22.99

Infuse Pro 5 frees you from having to load videos on to your iPhone when you fancy watching them. Instead, films and shows can be streamed from wherever the files happen to be stored, which can be pretty much anywhere, such as a drive plugged into your router, Dropbox, a networked PC, or Plex.

Once you add a folder, Infuse figures out what’s in it, and quickly downloads relevant cover art and metadata. It looks superb, and comes across a lot like a refined take on Netflix, but for your own personal movie and TV collection.

Assuming you have the network bandwidth, playback is seamless, regardless of the files you’re working with. If you want to send footage elsewhere, there’s Google Cast and AirPlay support, and Infuse will even download subtitles on request for when you’re trying to watch something on the sly.

Fiery Feeds

  • Free + IAP

Fiery Feeds is a powerful, usable, beautifully designed RSS reader. Once you’re subscribed to some website feeds, Fiery Feeds pulls down headlines and synopses – all for free.

It’s a great way to track sources you know and enjoy, so you never need miss anything important. You get a slew of options for customizing the visual appearance of the app, and many ways to share interesting content.

Pay the annual IAP ($9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99) and Fiery Feeds opens up further. You get a text view mode, which means synopses expand to full article feeds without you having to visit the original sites. The app also provides smart views – automatically generated feeds of ‘must reads’ and other interesting finds, bringing them to your attention when you’re tight for time.

Pimp Your Screen

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Pimp Your Screen is an app for customizing your iPhone. At its most basic, this means wallpaper. You select a category, swipe until you find something you like, tap to bring up a Home screen mock-up, and save the image to Photos when you’re done.

However, Pimp Your Screen goes further than its contemporaries in key ways. There’s a Themes section, which pairs matching lock and Home screen wallpapers. There are also ‘makers’ for both screen types, which enable you to combine components in a creative manner.

In the Lock Screen Maker, you can define a background, and add text. Swiping the status bar or clock adds a background for that area alone; swipe below the clock and a (static) calendar appears.

The Home Screen Maker adds a slew of virtual shelves and icon ‘skins’ to the status bar and page backgrounds. The results can vary from beautiful to eye-punchingly taste-free. Probably best if you try to veer toward the former.

Comic Zeal

  • $4.99/£4.99/$7.99

Comic Zeal is the best comic reader for iPhone. You import comics from cloud libraries or by dragging and dropping them to a special address in your web browser (sadly, there’s no local network drive access), whereupon they’re displayed as a grid or list.

Through slightly fiddly but powerful organizational tools, your collection can be categorized and tagged, making individual issues easy to access later.

The reading experience is the best bit, though. Whether you load a PDF, CBR or CBZ, Comic Zeal quickly renders pages. Page turn animations can be disabled, and you can use ‘assisted panning’ to efficiently read through zoomed pages that would otherwise be unreadable on an iPhone. There’s also a single tap button for switching between single pages and double-page spreads.

Ultimately, comics are still best read on a larger display, but Comic Zeal shows iPhones needn’t be left out when you’re on the move and want your next superhero or indie comic fix.

Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

One of the things the iPad’s been really great at – with the right app installed – is making science approachable. But Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe is, in many ways, more ambitious than iPad tomes.

That’s because it attempts to bring accessibility to Stephen Hawking’s phenomenal work on mind-bending topics such as space-time and the expanding universe – and squeeze everything into the much smaller screen of an iPhone.

Given such weighty subject matter, this is a surprisingly friendly digital book, broken down into easily digestible, bite-sized sections. Throughout, the app playfully animates, filling your screen with color and using illustration to aid understanding of the text.

Naturally, there’s still the possibility of bafflement, but the app helpfully tracks what you’ve read, and is perfect brain food for filling journeys on the bus in a manner mindlessly scrolling through social feeds can never hope to compete with.

Reeder 3

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$5.99

In these days of flashy news apps like Flipboard, old-school RSS readers get something of a bad reputation. But there's something really handy about subscribing to your favourite sites, and knowing you'll get every article delivered in chronological order, for you to pick through at leisure.

On the iPhone, Reeder 3 remains an excellent app for browsing and reading feeds. The interface is straightforward, and a built-in Readability view enables you to quickly load the text and images from feeds that only otherwise supply you with brief synopses.

If you've got an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, you can use that for article previews in the articles list.

The best health, diet and exercise apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for keeping fit, workouts, reducing stress and relaxing.

ChillScape

  • $0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49

ChillScape is an interesting curiosity. In a sense, it’s reminiscent of Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers’ Bloom, in that it involves meditative, ambient audio and a screen full of circles. The main difference here is that instead of creating discs that disappear into the background, you’re popping them like bubbles.

The idea is to relax into the audio and visuals. Rather than frantically popping discs, you should approach them thoughtfully and mindfully. Over time, more bubbles appear, and the audio shifts to add frequencies that claim to aid calm and stimulate euphoria, as a background beat gradually slows to reduce your heart rate.

Naturally, audio is subjective, and so the sounds used may not work for you; but if they do, Chillscape should prove a pleasurable yet absorbing way to unwind.

Paprika Recipe Manager

  • US$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Paprika wants your main companion in the kitchen to be your iPhone. With the app, you can store clippings from foodie websites. Recipes are intelligently saved offline, and can be edited. You can even add photos of your successes, thereby giving you something to aim for next time!

The app also supports everything else about mealtimes. You can create grocery lists, track what’s in your cupboards and when ingredients expire, plan meals that are synced with Calendar, and create reusable menus.

The app’s not the most vibrant in its class, and lacks the handy step-by-step imagery and videos found in the likes of Kitchen Stories and Tasty, but for getting on with the business of planning and making meals, on an ongoing basis it deserves the app equivalent of a Michelin star.

Streaks

  • US$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Streaks is a to-do manager all about helping you form good habits – and ridding yourself of bad ones. You begin by selecting a task and defining how often you want to do it. Tasks are subsequently checked off, and you can track your progress by way of the app’s various graphs and statistics.

Where Streaks succeeds is in the flexibility of the tasks you can add, and the razor-sharp focus on getting habits infused into your routine. The bold interface is ideally suited to six tasks, forcing you to prioritize. You can set reminders, and mark items as done using the Today widget or an Apple Watch.

Task types are varied. There are those that integrate with Health, negative tasks (like smoking) to avoid completing, and timed tasks for things like meditation sessions. In all, it’s an excellent app for coaxing out a better you.

White Noise+

  • Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP

White Noise+ is an ambient noise machine, which aims to drown out distractions by filling your ears with something pleasant instead.

Rather than just offering you sounds to play, or sliders to adjust volume levels, it takes the form of a mini mixing desk akin to the smart drums grid in GarageBand. You drag sounds into the 16 available slots, with those towards the top playing at a louder volume, and those towards the right offering more complexity. It’s intuitive, effective and looks really great as well.

Neatly, should you happen upon a particularly pleasing combination, it can be saved for later playback, and the app itself includes a few examples to get you going. There’s also an alarm built-in, for using the app for meditation sessions – or to help you not oversleep when having a quick afternoon nap.

Zombies, Run!

  • Free + IAP

Zombies, Run! is a fitness app that urges you on not just with stats and data, but with the threat you’re about to be torn limb from limb by the undead.

Fortunately, it doesn’t just randomly blare BRAINZZZZ into your ears – it’s a full-fledged adventure experience, co-created with an award-winning novelist. So as you huff and puff, you gain insight into a dystopian future, head out on supply runs, and try not to become lunch for a zombie horde.

For free, you get a few missions, one of which unlocks every week, and interval training workouts. But the subscription packs in hundreds of missions – enough to keep you going for many months. If you’re a fan of horror or just fancy an exercise app that isn’t all about numbers and music, it’s an excellent buy.

MyFitnessPal

  • Free

MyFitnessPal aims to get you fitter by helping you track what you eat. Given that such tracking often involves logging meals, the app speeds things along by way of a barcode scanner, a colossal food database and a recipe importer. If you tend to eat the same meals often, you can save favorites.

All the while, your calories are tracked, and you can check how you’re doing against any goals you’ve set. The ability to connect exercise apps also means MyFitnessPal can become a kind of hub for your general wellbeing.

As ever, there’s a pro version. This seriously ramps up data, analysis and support, with the likes of nutrient insights, tips articles and fine-grained goals. In either incarnation, MyFitnessPal works well to help you more easily understand how food intake affects you.

Runkeeper

  • Free

Runkeeper is a training aid and run tracker, which has been around for more than a decade. Since its debut, it’s evolved from mapping out your runs by utilizing your iPhone’s GPS to become a kind of digital personal trainer.

If all you’re looking for is a way to track exercise, Runkeeper remains a winning app. Whether you’re running, walking or cycling, Runkeeper provides real-time data in massive glanceable numbers, and plenty of data to delve into when you’re done.

Runkeeper Go takes things further than logging and stats. For $9.99/£7.99/AU$14.99 per month, you gain access to premium training plans, and custom workouts designed to fit your schedule and ability. The price is obviously a jump up from the free app, but it’s cheaper than a human trainer, and effective when you want more than the basics.

Streaks Workout

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Streaks Workout dispenses with the complexity and problems associated with mobile exercise apps. Don’t want to trudge about in the rain? Streaks Workout has you exercise inside. Lacking kit – or even a chair to lean on? This app only demands you have access to a floor.

It’s also a cinch to focus on exercises you prefer. If you fancy doing push-ups but hate planks, tap the relevant buttons accordingly. You can then jump into a semi-randomized routine that’s between six and 30 minutes long (labelled, respectively, ‘quick’ and ‘pain’).

As of version 3.0, there’s a custom workout option, too – great for people who need to know what’s coming next and how many reps to do. We suspect some exercise nuts might still consider the app limiting, but for mere mortals wanting to get fit, Streaks Workout is among the best there is on iPhone.

Insight Heart

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Insight Heart was apparently designed to make medical education explorable and fun. This is achieved by having a realistic beating heart float before your face, via the magic of augmented reality (AR).

It’s very weird, but also oddly fascinating. After planting a human outline’s feet, the outline fades and you’re left with an organ levitating above your carpet. Go in close and the heartbeat gets louder; go really close and the heart opens, so you can explore how the blood flows.

Offering further insight, the app can show how conditions affect the heart, for those times when you’re desperate to see some arterial hypertension above your kitchen table. We want a brain app next, please.

The best kids apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps, learning tools, musical toys and games for toddlers and children.

Women Who Changed the World

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Women Who Changed the World is an animated picture book for children, exploring the achievements of influential and iconic women, including Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and Marie Curie.

The stories are approachable, providing useful facts, but not deluging children with too much content. The illustrations are bright and adorable, and many scenes in each story have interactive elements, such as being able to drag Earhart’s plane around.

There are a few niggles, most notably that it isn’t always obvious what should be done to move the story on. However, this low-cost, advertising-free introduction to such important subject matter is a must-download app for any kids (small or large) who’d like a grounding in the achievements of some of history’s most brilliant and brave women.

Zen Studio

  • Free + $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99 IAP

Zen Studio‘s developer describes it as a meditation app for kids, but really it’s an engaging and entertaining combination of coloring and musical toy. It’s ideal for anyone who needs to relax for a while – regardless of age.

The app’s canvases are triangles that you color in with a tap and emit a note whenever you do so. Drag out a line or tap a few triangles in quick succession and you’re treated to a little melody. It’s all very ‘zen’.

You get the bulk of the app for free, but pay the one-off IAP and it opens up in useful ways: white paint for ‘deleting’ colored triangles; a range of template-based tutorials; and unlimited save slots. You might feel ‘zen’ about not splashing out, but this is an app that’s well worth paying a few bucks for.

Foldify

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Foldify is a rarity – an app that’s not entirely devoted to the digital realm. Instead, it invites you to create little characters on your iPhone, which you can then print on to card or paper, and construct by way of deft folding and a dab of glue.

The interface is first-rate. You kick things off with a template – anything from basic cubes to little blocky people, cars and arcade machines. You then scribble all over that with a pen tool, slap on stickers, and import your own images. All the while, you can admire your handiwork as a little 3D model that’s updated in real-time and can be spun with a flick.

There’s also a social aspect for sharing your creations and downloading other people’s works – including amusingly cuboid takes on Steve Jobs and the original Mac.

Bandimal

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Bandimal is probably the world’s cutest music-making app. And although it was designed for children, we’ll wager anyone with a soul will be grinning from ear to ear shortly after starting to play.

It involves loading animals into one of three available slots, and tapping out notes on a dotted grid. When the playhead moves over the dots, a sound plays, and the animal bops along accordingly – such as a whale blowing colored water while emitting suitably deep bass noises.

It’s relentlessly jolly, sounds superb, and automatically stores every song you make. And as if to cement how perfect the app is, load one of your songs and the animals count in before it starts playing.

Playground AR

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Playground AR does what it says on the tin, in that it’s a playground for having fun with augmented reality. In short, it’s a physics sandbox, which enables you to build virtual structures on a real-world flat surface.

Placing blocks is a bit weird, because this app isn’t about drag and drop. Instead, you drag to rotate an item, and adjust its position by physically moving your device. However, there’s tons of scope here for the patient, including the means to create machines with joints, wheels and thrusters – and then blow them up with bombs.

It’s a pity you can’t save set-ups, but at least when you’re playing with virtual blocks there’s no mess to clean up when you’re done.

Toca Life: Office

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Toca Life: Office is an app designed for children, ostensibly giving them insight into what their parents do all day at work. Only this office is probably a lot more exciting than the one you get to spend many hours in every week.

Here, tiny fingers can dot 35 distinct characters about the place, and role-play in an office, bank, rooftop, courthouse, and apartment. There’s a virtual daycare, a swanky glass elevator, and a bank vault with an alarm.

You can draw on a whiteboard, print from the computers, discover a helicopter, and even make superheroes. Chances are you’ll want to try this out yourself when your kid’s done, too, if only to imagine how exciting your own office life could be.

DNA Play

  • $2.99/£2.99/$4.49

DNA Play is an educational app for children that serves as an introduction to the basic science behind DNA. At least in theory. Really, most tiny people will be more excited about the prospect of fashioning all kinds of bizarre, colorful creatures by way of dragging and tapping.

The app begins with you completing simple ‘gene’ puzzles, which see you dramatically adjusting a monster’s characteristics, and this can be done by simply hammering away at a body part to switch it for something new – ideal for less dextrous younglings. Each monster can then be saved and its photo shared.

Occasionally, objects show up, giving you the chance to propel your monster along on a skateboard, feed it a pile of fruit, or have it totally freak out when faced by a spider significantly less terrifying than the monster. But best of all, if you get caught playing with the app yourself, you can argue you’re in the midst of an important scientific breakthrough. Probably.

Endless Alphabet

  • $8.99/£8.99/AU$13.99

If you’ve got yourself a resident tiny human, your house probably has a few of those wooden puzzles where letter shapes are shoved into their respective slots. Endless Alphabet isn’t quite, well, endless, but contains dozens of such puzzles, which work brilliantly on the touchscreen.

On your child selecting a word, monsters sprint along the bottom of the screen, scattering its letters. They then need to be dragged back into place, coming to life as they’re moved. When a word’s complete, monsters act out what it means in a charming animated cut scene.

There are some minor grumbles here and there – the app’s resolutely US-English in nature, and the sounds letters make when dragged might confuse, since they’re not full letters nor the phonics often used in education. Otherwise, this is a first-rate, charming, enjoyable educational app for youngsters getting to grips with words.

Metamorphabet

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

If you've seen tiny humans around iOS devices, you'll have noticed that even those that can't speak beyond bababababa and dadadadada nonetheless merrily swipe and poke at screens.

Metamorphabet capitalises on this ingrained infatuation with shiny touchscreens, and cunningly attempts to teach the alphabet via the medium of surreal interactive animations.

It starts off with A, which when poked grows antlers, transforms into an arch and goes for an amble. Although a few words are a stretch too far (wafting clouds representing a daydream, for example), this is a charming, imaginative and beautifully designed app.

My Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

If you've been around young children for any length of time, there's no escaping The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

That greedy larva seems to hypnotise tiny people, gluing them to whatever format it appears in, be it book or TV animation. There have been apps, too, but those we've seen before have disappointed. My Very Hungry Caterpillar, though, is a new take on the character, turning it into a kind of virtual pet.

Children familiar with the source material will watch happily as fruit they pluck from trees is quickly munched by the wriggly protagonist, but this app has far more to offer.

Gradually, it opens up all kinds of activities, such as growing a garden, playing with a ball, making art by getting messy with paints, and having fun on a pond. The app changes with the seasons, and so in winter the caterpillar gets to gleefully slide across frozen water, but in warmer months goes sailing.

It's all very charming and adorable, along with being entirely without risk — there's no way to off the little blighter. It's also finite: the little caterpillar grows fat and eventually becomes a butterfly, at which point a new egg appears to start the cycle again.

And if we're being honest, there's something quite cathartic in seeing the little chap through this journey, to the point we imagine quite a few adults will sneakily launch the app for a while when their child's asleep.

Loopimal

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

For most kids, plastic keyboards and annoyingly loud toy drums are a typical starting point in music, but Loopimal ambitiously attempts to introduce children to the concept of computer sequencing. Fortunately, it does so by way of highly animated dancing cartoon animals, bright shapes, and plenty of flair.

Hit play and you're immediately shown an animal bobbing its head to a backing track. You then drag coloured pieces (from a selection of five) into eight empty slots. When the playhead moves over the shapes, the animal adds its own sounds and melodies, often while performing impressive gymnastic feats.

It's Loopimal's character that initially wins you over. Unless you're dead inside, you won't fail to crack a smile when an octopus starts playing funky basslines with its tentacles, or the percussive Yeti gets all stompy. Smartly, once the player clocks how Loopimal works, the screen can be split into two or four, to combine animals and their unique sounds.

The one big miss is the inability to save your compositions, but every Loopimal riff is in C-major; this means you can use just the white notes on nearby keyboards to play along with whatever madness is happening inside the app.

The best music and audio apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for making music, listening to podcasts and being a DJ.

djay

  • Free + $4.99/£4.49/AU$7.49 monthly

djay is a hugely powerful DJ app for iOS. Formerly released in various flavors, it’s now universal and a free download. On install, you get a basic two-deck system with crossfader, looping, and some effects. Go pro, though, and a world of high-end DJ power opens up.

At that point, you can run up to four decks, and dabble in video mixing. You get over 1GB of samples, loops, and visuals to trigger. There’s a ton of integration with a range of hardware solutions. Automix is available too, for when you can’t be bothered doing the DJ work yourself.

On iPhone, it’s naturally a bit fiddly compared to the iPad’s relative acres – but it’s also a very portable way to always have the app on you for experimenting with – and useful for hooking up to physical controllers.

SquareSynth 2

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

SquareSynth 2 seems to have two reasons to exist. The first is to make you grin on selecting a preset, tapping a key, and having some retro audio blaze forth from your iPhone. The built-in sounds are reminiscent of noise you’d once have heard blasting from a Commodore 64 or NES; this in itself is all rather good fun.

But for musicians, this is a full-fledged synth. You can delve into each sound and muck about with its parameters – the results of which can be ear-thumpingly terrific. AudioUnit support also means this isn’t an isolated box – the entire thing can essentially be squirted into GarageBand. Only the slightly awkward interface on iPhone when editing lets it down a touch – but the great sounds more than make up for that.

Capo touch

  • $9.99/£9.49/AU$13.99 per year

Capo touch helps musicians learn songs without resorting to sheet music. Instead, you load an audio file and the app detects guitar or piano chords – however obscure the artist or song happens to be.

To help you master tricky bits, there’s a variable speed slider, and you can loop user-defined regions. There are isolation tools as well, to bring specific instruments to the fore. Chords can be edited, regions named, and entire songs transposed to different keys.

There are snags in that the app requires local music files to work with (so no bringing across a song from Spotify or Apple Music). Also, you need annual IAP to get more than 60 seconds of playback per session. But as a learning aid when you absolutely must nail a song, it’s an essential install.

Samplebot

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Samplebot is a colorful grid of buttons that you use to capture sounds. Press a pad, make a noise, and it’s then played by tapping the pad again. Fun stuff – but it turns out Samplebot has more layers than an onion.

Recorded sounds can be trimmed, and arranged in a sequencer. Pre-defined drum patterns are included, but you can also tap out your own. Beyond that, you can import audio from cloud services, Music, Files, or the clipboard, and manage sounds in-app. Tracks can be exported, and Samplebot can even be synced to other music apps.

In short, then, Samplebot is ideal for anyone wanting to make some noise, whether you fancy recording and playing back pots and pans being whacked, or creating entire songs.

GarageBand

  • Free

GarageBand is a music creation app and recording studio. Ambitiously, it aims to suit newcomers and pro musicians alike – and it succeeds.

For newcomers, there are smart instruments that automate chords and riffs, and a grid pad for triggering samples and loops. Gain in confidence and you can plug in a guitar and use GarageBand’s excellent range of amps, experiment with the timeline, and create drum patterns in the Beat Sequencer.

For pros, though, this app connects to other apps via Inter-App Audio and Audiobus, can ‘import’ entire third-party apps as Audio Units, and enables you to record, arrange and mix up to 32 tracks.

The app’s a stunning achievement, and we suspect many long-time musicians can’t believe such a thing exists on a phone.

TabBank

  • Free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 IAP

TabBank is a ‘smart notepad’ for people interested in songwriting on the go. And we mean that in the traditional sense: writing lyrics and chords, rather than prodding virtual synths.

Songs are written in basic markup. Each has an artist and title (after which you add colons), lyrics, and chords (added inside square brackets). Fancy melodies can be added by writing tab using dashes and numbers. The preview then makes everything readable – and playable. Well, sort of, as you can tap to play chords, and play tab in a slow-motion kind of way.

If that all sounds like hard work, you can grab tabs from countless websites, too, through a Safari extension; and everything can be exported to PDF, if you buy the one-off IAP. We’d like to see auto-play, rather than you having to tap individual chords, but otherwise this one’s a boon for budding songwriters.

Brian Eno: Reflection

  • $30.99/£29.99/AU$47.99

In a sense, featuring Brian Eno : Reflection in this round-up is a bit weird. Unlike other collaborations between musician Eno and software designer/musician Peter Chilvers, Reflection is broadly devoid of interaction. Instead, it effectively just plays Eno’s ambient Reflection album, but with some clever twists.

Unlike the standard album, which is the same every time you listen, the audio here has phrases and patterns within that continually interact in different ways, and subtly change as the day progresses, creating an endlessly changing version of the music. Likewise, the painterly visual on the screen slowly morphs before your eyes.

It’s pricey, but ultimately gives you endless Eno and is an intoxicating experience for anyone that likes their ambient fare. The man himself describes the app like sitting by a river: it’s the same river, but always changing. By contrast, the standard Reflections album initially sounds similar, but it’s a recording frozen in time, never changing.

djay Pro for iPhone

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$15.99

You might first look at djay Pro for iPhone and wonder if the developer’s gone a bit mad. You get virtual decks, sliders, and a bunch of buttons – but on an iPhone it looks a little like a DJ set-up for toddlers.

The truth is, you’re probably not going to be banging out your latest set using the app alone – although you can connect it up to a range of hardware and use it as the brains behind a controller.

However, whether you’re a wannabe or pro DJ, djay Pro for iPhone warrants investigation for allowing you to experiment on the go. The app’s hugely powerful and feature-rich (waveforms; four decks; sampler; amusing sound effects; properly clever beat-matching), making it far more than a curiosity or novelty.

Ferrite Recording Studio

  • Free + from $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

As a free app, Ferrite Recording Studio is mightily impressive – a kind of beefed-up Voice Memos, which lets you bookmark bits of recordings to refer to later, and then edit and combine multiple recordings in a multi-track editor view.

But when you pay for Ferrite, it becomes a fully-fledged podcast creation studio on your iPhone.

First and foremost, in-app purchases remove track and project length limits. This affords much greater scope for complex projects, which can have loads of overlaying tracks and potentially be hours in length.

The paid release also adds a range of professional effects, which can help transform your project by making the audio cleaner and more engaging.

But whether you pay or not, Ferrite's usable, intuitive interface should make it a tempting go-to tool for amateur podcasters, even if they're also armed with a PC or Mac.

Cesium

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Apple's built-in Music app has increasingly sidelined personal collections, instead heavily focussing on the Apple Music streaming service. Cesium is a player designed to help you enjoy your existing music library once again.

The interface marries old-school functionality with modern iOS design, offering tabs to quickly access artists, albums, songs and playlists.

Mostly, though, Cesium is great at providing the features music fans want: you can quickly edit and add to an upcoming queue; library sort options enable you to switch between alphabetical and chronological lists; and the landscape mode is just like the portrait mode but in widescreen, rather than trying (and failing) to do something 'clever'.

So if you're after a music player for iPhone that's tasteful, smart, full-featured and free of gimmicks, buy Cesium.

Korg Gadget

  • $39.99/£38.99/AU$62.99

Let's immediately get one thing out of the way: Korg Gadget isn't cheap. It's not the sort of app you're going to download for some larks, use for a few minutes, and then casually toss aside. However, if you've any interest in making music — whether as a relative newcomer or jobbing musician — it is quite simply the best app available for iPhone.

Purely as a tool for live performance, Korg's app is first-rate. You get a bunch of miniature synths, referred to as 'gadgets'; they're geared towards electronic music, but still have plenty of range.

There are drum machines, a gorgeous bell synth, some ear-smashing bass instruments, and plenty of other options, whether you want to be the Human League for a bit or go all clubby.

Each synth comes with a slew of presets, but you can fiddle with dials and levers to make your own, which can be saved for later use.

When it comes to writing music, you can record live, tapping out notes on a tiny on-screen keyboard or by using a connected piece of hardware. Alternatively, there's a piano roll for tapping out notes on a grid as you do in GarageBand, creating loops to then combine into a song in the mixing-desk view.

Korg Gadget is one of the most flexible and intuitive music-making apps we've seen on any platform, and the deepest on iOS. It was superb on the iPad, but that it actually works — and is very usable — on iPhone is nothing short of astonishing.

The best office and writing apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for file management, video memos, writing, email, spreadsheets, notes, presentations and calculations.

Timeview

  • Free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Timeview gives you alternate interpretations of and insight into your calendar data. Instead of events plastered across a day, week, or month view, this app is all about statistics, and presenting them as easy-to-scan cards.

The app delves into your existing iOS Calendar data, and the cards are based around user-defined rule-sets. That might sound complex, but it really isn’t. You can, for example, quickly create cards to outline calendar events that include the word ‘meeting’, those from specific calendars, recurring events, and so on.

For light users of Apple’s Calendar, this won’t be especially thrilling. But we imagine if your calendar is a mess of entries, all fighting for attention, the means to make sense of the chaos with Timeview’s straightforward, very readable interface will be very appealing.

1Password

  • $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.99 per month

1Password, like iCloud Keychain, is used to store website logins and payment information. But this app then goes further, being able to house details for servers, app license details, notes and identities.

The other big advantage is 1Password being a standalone app. Launch it and use Face ID or Touch ID and you’ll quickly be browsing your logins and data, which can be further refined through the use of favorites and tags. A first-rate password creator is bundled, too, for when you need a new or replacement website password.

The core app is free to try for 30 days, after which point a subscription is required. However, this unlocks the app across a range of supported platforms, including macOS, Android and Windows – something iCloud Keychain cannot compete with.

FileBrowser

  • $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99

FileBrowser is a file browser app, which you probably already guessed from its name. But this isn’t for rummaging around what’s on your iPhone – it’s for getting at files stored pretty much anywhere else.

Connecting to a PC, Mac, or some other local or online storage is straightforward, whereupon you can send and receive files. Usefully, favorite connections can be saved to quickly get at them later, as can often-used folders – the latter being stored as bookmarks.

Although the app has the odd strange omission (the lack of Share sheet integration being the most obvious), its basic interface almost hides a wealth of features, including file viewing, audio recording, archiving, internet downloads, and even streaming capabilities. It does a lot, without overwhelming you with features, and is a good buy if Apple’s Files doesn’t meet your needs.

Calzy 3

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99

Calzy 3 is a playful, friendly calculator app that betters the one built into your iPhone in key ways. As well as playing a pleasing sound whenever a key is tapped, it gradually builds a sum below the main display. Not only does this allow you to sanity check your ongoing calculation, but also you can at any point tap a figure or operator and swap it out for something else.

Another useful feature is the ‘memory area’ where you drag figures from the main display, which can later be dropped on operators to add to the current sum. We also liked how Calzy 3 automatically stores calculations you make in a scrollable history. You can bookmark useful sums for later retrieval, and assign a label (text or emoji) for added context.

Noted

  • Free or $0.99/79p/AU$1.49 per month

Noted is a rich-text notepad and voice memos app combined. This isn’t a new concept on the iPhone – other apps do much the same. But Noted differentiates itself by enabling you to mark important moments within the recording.

This is achieved using #TimeTags. As you type up notes while recording, tapping a button places a tag inline. When you subsequently tap a tag, your recording instantly starts playing from the relevant moment. This means you can take basic notes during a meeting or lecture, and then flesh everything out later, without having to constantly scrub through a recording to find the relevant parts.

You’ll need a subscription to make the most of the app – not least to record more than a handful of notes – but for many people, #TimeTags alone will be worth the outlay.

MindNode 5

  • Free + $14.99/£14.99/AU$22.99

MindNode 5 helps you connect your thoughts and figure out how ideas link together. This is achieved by way of mind maps – diagrams that begin with a central thought and connect it to related ones, typically resulting in something resembling a mutant spider.

However, when you work with MindNode 5 instead of paper, such messy results don’t happen. Instead, you get a system that can automate and lay out even the most complex of interrelated thoughts beautifully, with color, icons, and images when appropriate.

This all works nicely on the iPhone’s smallish screen, too. A superb Quick Entry mode helps, transforming a bullet-point list into a mind map via a single tap, but the entire interface is heavily optimized towards iPhone use. In short, MindNode 5 is easily the best in its field.

PCalc

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

PCalc is a traditional calculator – like the super-powered equivalent of something you might find sitting on a desk. If you want something more conventional than the calculator meets sort-of spreadsheet Soulver, PCalc is simply the best there is on iPhone.

For a start, the app’s almost absurdly feature-packed. There’s multiline and RPN, a paper tape, and multiple undo. Need conversions and constants? Done. Engineering and scientific notation? Sure. You can even edit the individual buttons, if you for some reason want the 6 key to be massive.

The app has a slightly odd sense of humor, too. Head into the Help section in its Settings and fire up the ARKit About PCalc screen, and lob anti-gravity bananas about the place. This is a calculator with leaderboards and achievements, and – we say again – anti-gravity bananas. Buy it.

Just Press Record

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Just Press Record is a highly usable audio recorder and transcription tool. It’s also an excellent example of how to take an app that’s extremely simple and add new features without drowning it in complexity.

To start, you still tap a big, red button, and then record whatever you want to say. Saved recordings head to iCloud, meaning they can be accessed on any device. On your iPhone, they’re found in the Recents and Browse tabs, the latter listing them by date.

There’s also a Search tool – which might seem redundant until you realize every recording is automatically transcribed. Naturally, this doesn’t always nail context – during testing, it mixed up ‘synced’ and ‘sinked’ – and you have to manually say punctuation (such as ‘comma’).

Still, this means that you can share text rather than just audio files, and that every utterance you make can potentially be found by keyword, instead of you scrabbling through a huge list of recordings. It’s really smart stuff.

Pennies

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Pennies is all about managing your money. But whereas finance trackers have a tendency to be dry and complicated, Pennies goes for a much friendlier approach. Using the app’s colorful, straightforward interface, you can quickly and easily define new budgets around any kind of topic, and add or remove money from them.

Much of the app’s effectiveness lies in the way it encourages you to categorize your spending. Want to cut down on coffee? Create a ‘coffee’ category and get a monthly and daily budget, along with a visible reminder of when you can next spend.

Your entire history always remains available in an ongoing scrolling list, and because Pennies syncs across devices, your figures are readily available on iPad and Apple Watch too. In short, it’s the budget tracker for the rest of us.

Untitled

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

Untitled rethinks screenwriting. Rather than you having to remember how to format your next Hollywood blockbuster, Untitled prioritizes you getting ideas down, through providing a helping hand regarding how your script should look.

This works by way of simple-to-remember shorthand, such as placing dialogue underneath a character’s name, or ‘>’ before a transition. The app’s also intelligent enough to reformat scene headers (intro/location/time) from plain English into the correct style.

On iPad, Untitled is a friendly screenwriting tool, but its relaxed, note-taking approach really feels at home on iPhone. It’s not a tool you’d likely use to fine-tune a fully polished screenplay, but it’s excellent for starting one – wherever and whenever inspiration strikes.

Carbo

  • $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99

You can of course use a wide range of apps for storing real-world scribbles – photograph a journal page and you can fling it at the likes of Evernote, say. But Carbo tries something more ambitious. Your sketches and notes are cleaned up, and converted to vectors, while preserving your original stroke.

What this means is that images within Carbo retain the character of your penmanship, but are also editable in a manner standard photographs are not – you can select and move specific elements that Carbo intelligently groups, adjust line thicknesses throughout the entire image, add annotations and tags, and export the result to various formats.

It's a friendly, intuitive app to work with, and efficient, too – a typical Carbo note requires only a tenth of the storage as the same image saved as a standard JPEG photo.

Scrivener

  • $19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99

On the desktop, Scrivener is popular with writers crafting long-form text. On iPad, the app is – amazingly – barely altered from the PC and Mac release; but Scrivener on iPhone is a slightly different prospect.

That's not to say this isn't a feature-rich and highly capable product. You still get a solid rich-text editing environment and a 'binder' to house and arrange documents and research, before compiling a manuscript for export.

What you lose on the smaller screen is those features that require more space: a two-up research/writing view; the corkboard for virtual index cards.

But Scrivener is still worth buying – although you're unlikely to write an entire screenplay or novel on an iPhone, you can use the app to take notes, make edits, and peruse your existing work, wherever you happen to be.

Soulver

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Traditional calculator apps are fine, but even if they come with digital tape, you don't get figures in context. By contrast, a spreadsheet is overkill for most adding-up tasks. Soulver is a neatly conceived half-way house — like scribbling sums on the back of an envelope, but a magic envelope that tots everything up.

You get two columns. On the left, you type everything out, integrating words as you see fit. On the right, totals are smartly extracted. So if you type 'Hotel: 3 nights at $125', Soulver will automatically display $375 in the totals column.

Line totals can be integrated into subsequent sums, ensuring your entire multi-line calculation remains dynamic — handy should you later need to make adjustments to any part.

Given the relative complexity of what Soulver's doing, it all feels surprisingly intuitive from the get-go. There are multiple keyboards (including advanced functions and currency conversion), you can save calculations and sync them via iCloud or Dropbox, and it's even possible to output HTML formatted emails of your work.

Scanbot

  • Free + $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99 IAP

There are two flavors of Scanbot, each of which is impressive in its own right. For free, you get a superb iPhone scanner with cloud storage integration, QR code support, and the means to detect edges for any paper document you want to digitise. Upgrade to Scanbot Pro and things get more interesting. You can add pages to existing scans, quickly name files using a clever smart-naming system, and search/extract text from previous scans.

There's also an automated actions feature, where the app finds the likes of phone numbers and email addresses within your scans, turning them into single-tap buttons within each item's actions menu. It's not quite accurate enough to be witchcraft, but we nonetheless happily leave important scans within Scanbot these days, rather than immediately deleting after export.

The best productivity apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for being productive with launchers, focus timers and to-do lists.

Yoink

  • US$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Yoink can be thought of as a super-charged version of the clipboard. It’s used to stash all kinds of things for later – text snippets, URLs, images, and even documents and emails. Items added to Yoink can be renamed, formed into groups called ‘stacks’, and previewed.

Files integration means you can get at everything you’ve stored in the app without actually going into Yoink itself. Siri Shortcuts support also means you can stash your clipboard’s contents without first activating the app.

Cross-device capabilities round out a great app – iCloud sync allows you to get at Yoink content saved on any of your devices. And so although this is probably not an app you’ll use every day, it’s a massive time-saver when you need to collate files from disparate sources on mobile.

Launch Center Pro

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$8.99

Launch Center Pro resembles the iOS home screen, but it launches actions rather than apps. For example, instead of firing up Phone or Safari, Launch Center Pro can trigger a call to a specific person, or launch a particular website.

There are, naturally, some limitations. The Launch Center Pro website outlines supported apps and actions (click ‘all’ to see the full range); but you’ll likely already own a bunch of these, and be able to think of ways the app can make using an iPhone easier for you.

You don’t even have to launch the app either – shortcuts can be assigned to Today view widgets, or Quick Actions when you press down on the app’s icon. In short, it’s a great speed dial for your favorite app actions.

Fantastical 2

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Fantastical 2 acts as a replacement for the iOS Calendar app. You might question the logic in buying something like this, but Fantastical 2 quickly pays for itself by making you more efficient.

This is apparent the second you check out the main view. Rather than having to laboriously tap each day to see its events, Fantastical 2 provides a scrollable feed, making it a cinch to see how your schedule looks into the future – and to quickly browse the past.

Reminders are integrated, too, and event input includes a powerful natural-language parser. As you tap in the likes of ‘TechRadar lunch at 3pm on Friday’, a live preview builds. And none of the data you add is locked in – Fantastical 2 works with your existing iCloud account, Google Calendar, or Exchange.

BFT – Bear Focus Timer

  • $0.99/£0.99/AU$1.49

BFT – Bear Focus Timer is yet another app designed to make you use your iPhone less and concentrate more, but if you need a sense of focus and are easily distracted by your iPhone, it’s one of the best of its kind.

First, it features a friendly bear, and who doesn’t like bears? Secondly, the app’s Pomodoro-style timers are adjustable, so you can fine-tune lengths for work, short breaks, session counts, and long breaks (recommended after several work/short break sessions).

The app’s interface is the real star though, inviting you to turn your device upside-down to get the timer going. Pick up your phone and the timer stops, while the previously friendly bear scowls. It’s amusing and chastising in equal measure, making you smile, flip your phone back, and listen to the app’s helpful hubbub-drowning noise loops.

Things 3

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

Things 3 is a task manager that wants to help you get more done. The interface is sleek and the workflow is smart, helping you collect thoughts and plan your time efficiently.

The app’s core is to-dos, but it allows you to add context, such as the time, date or location that you plan to carry the task out. Things 3 then populates a Today view with the day’s tasks (cleverly grouping things you do at home under a This Evening heading), and puts later tasks in an Upcoming list.

The finer points of the app’s design and interactions make it a joy to use. Animations are subtle, but colors are bold. Clever details are dotted about, like the ability to position a new entry by dragging the to-do button to a list.

Things 3 isn’t cheap – especially if you also buy it on iPad and Mac – but the potential time savings make it good value.

Forest

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

The idea behind Forest is to get you to leave your iPhone alone. It does this by having you plant a tiny sapling and set a timer. If you succeed in not using your iPhone until the timer’s done, you get to plant what’s now a little tree in a virtual forest. If you succumb to temptation, Forest mercilessly kills your tree, leaving a barren little twig.

Amusingly, if you try to trick the app by switching away, it’ll immediately send a terse reminder to have you switch right back. But despite this somewhat gruff element, Forest ranks among the best gamified focus aids.

Over time, it’s rewarding to see your forest grow, unlock new trees, and delve into detailed statistics. Also, using coins earned in-app, you can buy real trees for communities that need them. And all because you avoided Facebook for a few hours.

Focus Keeper

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

Focus and burnout are two commonplace issues for people in work. Too often, you can become distracted from tasks; but also there’s the risk of working long hours without a break, leading to fatigue. Focus Keeper aims to deal with both.

The timer is loosely based around the Pomodoro Technique (a time management method), and recommends splitting your time between 25-minute work sprints and five-minute breaks. After four sessions, you take a longer break of about half an hour.

The app is clutter-free, and easy to use. The timer combines a minimal iOS-like design aesthetic with hints of a real-world timer’s dial. You can delve into statistics, adjust work/break lengths, and choose alternate alarm and ‘ticking’ noises. Most importantly, however  much this is all about psychology, it does work. Need convincing? Try the free version first.

The best travel and weather apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for planning a holiday, currency conversion, weather forecasts and mapping.

Dark Sky Weather

  • US$3.99/£3.99

Dark Sky Weather started out primarily as a rainfall tracker, with luminous clouds billowing over a dark background map. Now, the app is much more conventional – but arguably massively more useful.

The main forecast page shows current conditions and a local map. Usefully, little arrows denote the direction a storm’s heading, so you can always spot that at a glance, rather than having to check the full animated rainfall view. Below that you get rainfall predictions for the hour, the daily forecast, and a weekly outlook. It’s all very sleek, efficient and usable.

The app’s accuracy may vary by location, but during testing in various countries we’ve found its rainfall predictions to be spot-on. It’s also a nicely flexible app regarding warnings – several notifications are built in, and you can add your own based on a range of weather conditions.

V for Wikipedia

  • $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99

V for Wikipedia is a Wikipedia reader. That in itself might sound like an odd recommendation for a premium app, but bear with us.

Although V can be used to search Wikipedia in the normal way, it starts off in its Nearby tab, flagging articles of interest in your vicinity. This looks great, tabs snaking their way from map locations to large thumbnails. It’s practical, too, for finding out more about the local area, without resorting to review-oriented web services.

This sense of polish extends to the article views. Typography and layout are first class, and a slide-in contents list is only a tap away. So while you might narrow your eyes at the prospect of paying for a Wikipedia reader, Viki will have said eyes busily and regularly reading the world’s most dynamic encyclopedia.

WeatherPro

  • $0.99/79p/AU$0.99

WeatherPro is a weather app designed for people who favor information density over aesthetics. That’s not to say WeatherPro looks bad – its white-on-blue stylings are perfectly nice. But where it excels is in providing fast access to a wealth of weather data.

For any selected location, a single screen shows the current conditions, a local radar, upcoming predictions and then a forecast for the coming week. The latter packs temperatures, sun hours, precipitation forecasts and wind speeds into a tiny space.

In pretty much all cases, tapping on something lets you delve into even more information, and additional taps provide layered mapping and radar services. Accessing some layers requires an IAP subscription, but just the bare-bones WeatherPro is a great buy if you want at-a-glance forecasts packed with detail.

Citymapper

  • Free

Citymapper is a navigation aid for finding your way around big cities. It doesn’t cover the entire globe, but is instead focused on a handful of major destinations, such as New York, Chicago, Tokyo, London, Paris and Sydney. Locations are periodically added by way of user votes.

If you live in or visit a supported city, Citymapper is superb for helping you find your way around more efficiently. The app quickly finds where you are and offers options – in real-time – of how to reach your intended target.

And small details really help it stand out, such as you being able to track the location of a bus you’re waiting for, alerts that blare when your stop’s coming up, and even recommendations of the best carriage to get on – and the fastest station exit to use.

Google Maps

  • Free

Google Maps is the best mapping app on iPhone.

It’s extremely good at locating places you want to visit, be that a distant town or a point of interest like a restaurant or store. When it comes to turn-by-turn driving directions, the voiceovers lack the nuance of Apple’s Maps, but the actual directions tend to be more helpful when it comes to dealing with incidents like congestion.

Google Maps is great for planning and non-car use, too. There are reviews and recommendations for places to go, public transport routing, and Street View – a navigable 3D street-level map for scoping out landmarks that proves handy when traveling somewhere or visiting a new place.

Importantly, you can also download chunks of map for offline use, turning Google Maps into a turn-by-turn navigator even when you lack a data connection.

CARROT Weather

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

CARROT Weather rethinks weather apps, mostly in being helmed by an angry AI that seemingly won the ‘most likely to kill people in their sleep’ award over HAL. Sure, you get the usual rainfall warnings, hourly forecasts, and weekly outlooks, but they’re all delivered with a layer of snark.

Venture into the excellent Today view widget and CARROT will ‘LOL’ if it’s going to rain. If it’s sunny, she’ll hope you get tan lines, call you a meatbag, and suggest you make the most of the nice weather – “or else”.

It’s uniquely entertaining in its App Store category, but also usable, colorful, and configurable. The maps are extremely variable by country, and some layers require IAP – as do a number of useful settings. But otherwise this is one of the best – and certainly the most fun – weather apps for iPhone.

Elk

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

We’ve lost count of how many currency converters exist on the App Store, but it’s vanishingly rare to see anyone try something properly different.

Elk bucks the trend, with a unique interface and approach that might not appeal to traders, but feels very much like currency conversion for the rest of us.

On firing up the app, you select your two currencies and it offers a list of current rate conversions. For USD to EUR, for example, you get a list of the rates for one through ten dollars. Swiping from the right increases these values by ten. To access rates between two values, tap an entry.

Smartly, you can also input a fixed rate, for example to track your spending on a holiday when you’ve already got your cash. Most of the features are behind a paywall, but a 14-day trial lets you try them for free.

Poison Maps

  • $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99

This one’s all about ‘points of interest’, hence the name – Poison Maps (‘POIs on maps’). Essentially, it’s a wealth of information from OpenStreetMap shoved into an app and twinned with an interface that makes it a cinch to drill down into categories.

So, mooching about London and fancy a bite to eat? Tap on the food and drink icon. Something quick? Tap Fast Food. Pizza? Sounds good.

Each tap filters the POIs and navigation buttons displayed, and arrows point at nearby locations when you’re zoomed in. Everything’s extremely responsive, and the maps and icons are clear and easy to read. Other nice bits include a full-screen mode, a search function, and public transport overlays.

The only snag is Poison Maps is a gargantuan install – well over 1GB. If that’s a bit rich, smaller regional alternatives by the same developer exist, each being a free download with a small IAP to unlock all categories.

Living Earth

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

From a functionality standpoint, Living Earth is a combination clock/weather app. You define a bunch of cities to track, and switch between them to see current time, weather conditions, and when the sun's going to make an appearance and vanish for the day.

Tapping the forecast quickly loads an outlook for the entire week; prod the clock and you'll get the weather and time in each of your defined locations.

What sets Living Earth apart, though, is the globe at the screen's centre. This provides a live view of the planet's weather – clouds, by default, which can be swapped for temperature, wind and humidity.

We like the clouds most, along with the way the virtual planet can be slowly spun with the slightest swipe. It'll then lazily rotate between zones in daylight and those lit up after night has fallen.

from TechRadar – All the latest technology news http://www.techradar.com/news/best-iphone-apps-2019